Sense and sensibility (1995)

Emma Thompson is the only actor to win Academy Awards for both acting and writing. She won the Best leading Actress Oscar for Howards End (1992) and the Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility (1995).

Emma’s screenplay mesmerized the audience giving birth to a masterpiece, in fact in my opinion Sense and sensibility, a 1995 British period drama film, is one of the most beautiful and touching films ever.

It was directed by Ang Lee and based on the novel by Jane Austen that was published in 1811 and that became a classic.

It offers a beautiful portrayal of 19th century middle class life, starring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant wearing gorgeous period costumes in the beauty of the English countryside.

When Mr Dashwood dies, the widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters (Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret) are forced to abandon their home by the neglect of their half-brother who inherits from their father.

The two older sisters represent opposite temperaments: Elinor, the oldest, is prudent, rational and she tends to keep emotions in check, whereas Marianne, the middle sister, is emotional, passionate and contemptuous of conventions. They behave differently, especially when it comes to feelings but they both experience lovelorn struggle, learning that they have to find a balance between sense and sensibility.

The movie is full of wonderful scenes: Edward e Elinor walking in the meadow, the nocturnal confidences of the two sisters, the dance in the beautiful and majestic ballroom, the sudden thunderstorms that make the pleasant English countryside ghostly, giving it a romantically tragic look, colonel Brandon who carries Marianne in the rain.

I really think that the script and the performances are excellent: Emma brings brilliantly on screen the quiet, careful and thoughtful Elinor and Kate Winslet is perfectly comfortable in the role of her romantic and passionate sister. Good acting for both the actresses and excellent chemistry between them, they really look like sisters even in real life.

For me this is a must-see film, at least once in life.

Saving Mr Banks (2013)

Emma Thompson – P.L. Travers

Author P.L. Travers delighted generations of children all over the world with Mary Poppins.

In this movie she is described as a snobby stubborn woman who throws tantrums and abides pears, Americans, cartoons and who thinks it’s blasphemy to drink tea from a paper cup.

She flies to Los Angeles to meet Walt Disney and her trip is emotionally distressing, because it stirs up long-buried memories about her childhood and her alcoholic father. “It’s as if my subconscious is attacking me,” she says, talking on the phone at night with her agent.

She hates the idea of having her book made into a film, so she tries to get Disney and his team lose their patience. She is rude to everyone. The only person who can break through her dry heart is Ralph, the limousine driver, to whom she signs a book before leaving. He is the only person allowed to call her by name.

Emma explains how she approached playing this role. To embody Pamela Travers, she had to study her posture, her gestures and also her shrill and annoying voice.

Pamela is pretty nasty a lot of the time but she is also a vulnerable creature, with a not-so-cheery disposition. But in some isolated moments, Mr Disney makes her smile and he manages to surprise her, especially when he takes her to Disneyland and forces her to take a ride on the carousel.

I love the scene in which she finally let herself go and dances.

Great performance by Emma whose character was not easy to play.

What is all this jollification?

They all had difficulties.

The children act (2017)

Even in dramatic roles, Emma’s presence lights up the screen and it is always pleasant to be in her company.

I feel a kind of affection towards her as if she were an old friend of mine. I recognize her facial expressions, so familiar to me.

The Children Act showcases another powerful performance from Emma Thompson, who shows us once again her ability to play drama roles.

Her expressions range from suffering to compassion, tenderness, disappointment, pain. This is one of the most complex and dramatic roles in which I have seen Emma try her hand.

In this movie I feel strong empathy with Fiona Maye, she is a judge with a strong personality who tries to be as rational as possible when she has to decide the fate of a seventeen year old boy with leukemia.

The consequences of her ruling will upset the lives of the people involved.

Fiona is totally absorbed in work and her marriage is falling apart but maybe it’s not too late to save it.

Fair performance of the promising young actor Fionn Whitehead.

The children act – the kiss

Look at her face after this forbidden kiss! I love the guilty and dumbfounded expression on Emma’s face, it seems to say: what the hell did I do?!

Simply fantastic! 😁

The remains of the day (1993)

Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens

The remains of the day is my favorite film, the one that made me discover and appreciate Emma’s skills.

The film tells the story of Mr Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), a loyal butler who has dedicated the whole life to his employer, Lord Darlington, an old misguided gentleman who sympathizes with the Nazis. Stevens never questions his lord but remains faithful to him.

Stevens is emotionally blocked, dignity is the only word in his vocabulary and he blindly trusts his master. There is no room for feelings in his life, only work counts for him.

The remains of the day

Something changes with the hire of a new housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), whose references satisfy Mr Stevens’ high expectations, he defines her “a young woman with excellent references, very pleasant demeanor, who appears to be very able”. She soon falls in love with him, makes him waver but not enough to declare his love. He certainly develops an affection towards her but his emotional detachment keeps the relation from growing.

The body language is essential to understand the attitude of the characters, Miss Kenton is always connected with other people, she seeks physical contact while Mr Stevens avoids it. He is aloof and unemotional most of the time and he only relaxes when he is alone in his private room, smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and listening to old records.

As time passes they work well together and their relationship becomes friendly but they don’t have the courage to confess their love, even if sometimes their friendship looks like a romance. Stevens often hesitates but never yelds even when Miss Kenton comes forward and tries to draw closer to him.

Whenever the two are in the same room, there is always a hurdle that stands in their possible proximity. The more used prop in this film, to separate phisically Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton is the desk in Stevens’ private room. He always hides behind the desk when he feels in danger, and the threat, for him, is the physical closeness of the housekeeper and the desk metaphorically represents the insurmountable wall for miss Kenton.

He is only able to look at her through a barrier, for instance there’s a scene in the movie where Mr Stevens watches her through the door’s keyhole. Another scene shows Mr Stevens secretly spying her through the windows while she is leaving Darlington Hall by bicycle. This explains how is he emotionally disconnected.

She, on the contrary, feels comfortable with him and seeks his company, brings him flowers, she often enters his room and jokes with him.

There’s a moment (their only) in which they are really closer, it’s the climax of the movie but something comes up and they start to pull away ruthlessly and forever.

The book scene – Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens

The most compelling scene of the movie opens with Miss Kenton who enters Mr Stevens’ room bringing in flowers while he is dozing with a book in his hands. He wakes up and she asks him what is he reading. He feels exposed and won’t tell her what sort of book he’s reading but she becomes pushy and keeps on chasing him with questions about the content of the book. “Is it racy?” She says with a suggestive smile on her face and she looks very excited by this. She stares at him funny and he hurries behind the desk alarmed by her gumption but this time she doesn’t stop, she is bold as never before, maybe she thinks this is the right time to declare each other.

She steps around the desk and joins him. Stevens is in the corner, completely helpless while she tries to gently tear the book from his hands. It’s a great emotional scene, he is torn between the will to touch Miss Kenton’s hair and the fear of their proximity and the fall of every barrier.

James Ivory’s direction is spectacular and makes this scene even more intense thanks to the play of lights and shadows that create an intimate atmosphere and arouse deep emotions.

Stevens is still as petrified but he can’t hide the liveliness of his eyes that peer into Miss Kenton’s face trying to fix eternally in his memory the beauty of her face and the uniqueness of that once-in-a-lifetime moment for him.

I think this is the most beautiful and romantic scene in the history of cinema. There are neither kisses nor hugs but their emotions are burning and the mutual desire is about to explode, she ogles with him looking forward to that kiss that will never come. He wants her and yet he stands still and so the mood abruptly breaks.

The remains of the day – the book scene

Stevens is aware of her feelings but is not able to reciprocate. Only during their final rendez-vous Stevens reaches awareness of wasted time and long last sees Miss Kenton in a romantic light but it’s too late because she has married another man to spite him.

This is the story of lost opportunities, unlived love, unspoken words, regret, despair, hidden and never confessed deep longing.

A must see film even if too heartbreaking.

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins at their best, with their furtive glances, superb control of the nuances, restrained emotions, they are really a wonder to behold.

Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens