Austen's Sense & Sensibility
You know. You Already Know.

The Remains of The Day

Evening Lights

Mrs. Ben:  People always cheer when they turn the lights on in the evening.  Every time.

Mr. Stevens:  I wonder why.

Mrs. Ben:  They do say that for a great many people the evening is the best part of the day.  The part they most look forward to.

Mr. Stevens:  Is that so?

Mrs. Ben:  What do you look forward to Mr. Stevens?

Mr. Stevens:  Oh, uh, getting back to Darlington Hall, principally.  And straightening out our staff problems.

Mrs. Ben: (chuckles)  Well you were always able to do that, Mr. Stevens.  And you had a quite a few to straighten out as I remember.

Mr. Stevens:  Yes, it always was work, work, and more work.  And will continue to be so, I have no doubt.


Later, at the rain-soaked bus stop, they exchange polite and restrained goodbyes.   ‘It was so good to see you’ and ‘Please take care of yourself.’  As Mrs. Ben gets on the bus, the camera lingers on their hands which clasp and then part forever.  The view cuts and stays glued to Mrs. Ben’s heartbroken face as the bus pulls away into oblivion. 

The film builds around these two servants at Darlington Hall around 1936.  They are proper and keep house with perfection.  They fall in love with each other but Mr. Stevens never can express his own desires or feelings to her.  In the scene above, the two meet again many years later.  The sequence begins with Mr. Stevens' hope to entice Mrs. Ben (who is Ms. Kenton for most of the film) to come back into service at Darlington.  She reveals that she has been thinking of going into the service again but that if she does, it will have to be in the west country where she will stay to be near her daughter and a grandchild on the way.  The unspoken implication is that Mr. Stevens could make his own way to the west country and find a new life there with her.  This would require what amounts to a minor change, but a significant, life-altering choice on his part.

He never leaves Darlington.

In the final sequence, Mr. Stevens is back in Darlington Hall with its new, American, caretaker.  While the two old men exchange pleasantries, a pigeon comes through the chimney and lands in the fireplace.  The two tiptoe and politely 'hmm' and 'hah' to get the bird out.  The last human face we see is Mr. Stevens' at the window.  The two men release the bird and Mr. Stevens looks through the glass onto the world outside.  Then he shuts the window and the camera pulls away.  The white criss-cross of wood from the window fades onto a view of Darlington Hall like prison bars.  We, the viewers, float away with the camera; away from Mr. Stevens’ imprisoned face and away into the ethereal air as he and Darlington Hall, itself, move into a museum-like oblivion.


I was in college when the film first came out and I remember it played at the Internationl Theatre hosted by the honors society on campus.  K and C, my roommates at the time, went to see it together.  K came back through the condo door afterwards, stirred up.

“Never never never never never!  I will never live my life like that!” 

He was passionate and solid in his words.  I have never forgotten them.

Today I watched the film again and sat there while Anthony Hopkins played Mr. Stevens with so much politeness.  He’s the classic servant and the classic Gentleman like so many others  - English Gentlemen, Southern Gentlemen, Shoot-me-in-the-head Gentlemen…

I wish that I could say I have lead every aspect of my life with the full heat of passion guiding my decisions along with the strength and power of logic and reasoning and self-confidence and self-awareness.  I think this is a problem for most of us, not just for me, but I can only speak for myself.

As I sat there, I thought 'For hell’s sake, all he has to do is get on the bus!'  "Just pull Mrs. Ben to you and get on the fucking bus, Mr. Stevens!”  I was shouting at the screen.  “Do it!  Do it now!” 

Then I huffed and got up from watching.

“What an idiot.”  I said it with empathy and the knowledge that whenever I'm talking to a fictional character, I'm nearly always speaking to some part of myself.

“Never, never, never again.”  This is my mantra.  I know I will not be perfect in this, but I vow to be braver.  Thank you, K, for inspiring me in your way.

The other thing I will never forget is Emma Thomson’s face as she plays Mrs. Ben and grieves with the rain and the bus pulls away.  The day is over.


I love what she says earlier about the evening.  Who says it can’t be the best part of the day?  Stupid young people who think they will live forever.  Stupid old people who think it is too late.  No matter what, the day will - ladies and gentlemen - end for all of us.  What will you do to enjoy it – to embrace it before the bus pulls away?