Complete A-Z list

Howards End (reissue)


Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter, Vanessa Redgrave, James Wilby, Samuel West, Jemma Redgrave, Simon Callow, Joseph Bennett, Barbara Hicks, Prunella Scales, Jo Kendall

Director: James Ivory

The most successful adaptation of an E M Forster novel, and the best of the Merchant-Ivory films by quite a stretch, centring on the clash between the upper-class Wilcoxes (led by Hopkins as the cold but conflicted Henry) and the middle-class, philanthropic Schlegels (Thompson, Bonham Carter) after his ailing wife (Vanessa Redgrave) leaves Margaret Schlegel (Thompson) a country estate, Howards End, in her will.

Vigorously shot and immaculately set, the story starts in 1910 and is related in terms of some feisty dialogue by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, intelligent stuff that sounds like the conversation of real people, particularly in a memorable exchange between Hopkins and Thompson.

Given this impetus, the players rise to the occasion. Hopkins' excellence under such circumstances tends to be taken for granted, but Thompson and Bonham Carter are both better than one could have possibly imagined, while Wilby, clearly relishing playing a nasty piece of work, is a more effective actor than heretofore.

Tony Pierce Roberts' mobile camerawork makes the most of the settings, too, from the countryside, through St Pancras Station, to the dusty, cavernous offices of an insurance company. Thompson's subsequent Oscar was richly deserved.

David Quinlan

UK 1991. UK Distributor: BFI. Technicolor.
142 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Jul 2017