The story takes place in England, shortly before World War II and on the war's early stages. We see most of it in flashbacks, through the eyes of James Stevens, a butler, played (wonderfully) by Anthony Hopkins. Mr. Stevens is completely devoted to his master, Lord Darlington (James Fox), whom he considers a man far superior to himself and therefore believes it is his duty to do his best serving him - especially at a time like this, when war is looming. When Miss Kenton (Emma Thopmson) a beautiful housekeeper arrives, she and Mr. Stevens begin to feel mutual attraction, but both choose to repress their feelings - Miss Kenton out of shyness and sense of propriety, and Mr. Stevens because duty comes first. Years later, Mr. Stevens comes to regret that he had denied himself personal happiness. His master Lord Darlington, as he comes to realize, was just as human as the rest of us, with his own faults and mistakes. The lord's position on the war, his sympathy towards the Nazi and his choice to support appeasement of Germany rather than fighting efforts are among the things Mr. Stevens now sees quite differently.
This surprisingly little known movie is excellent. I enjoyed the superb acting from the superb cast - Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Christopher Reeve (at his finest), Hugh Grant. The interaction between Hopkins and Thompson is what I liked the most, his cool reserve being offset by her gentle and witty personality.
The extras include Kazuo Ishiguro, the author of the novel this movie is based on, share his thoughts about the story; there is also an interview with Christopher Reeve, filmed after his accident.