May’s Movie Review: Howard’s End

May synopsis: Sometimes I’m in the mood for a slow and subtle period film. It’s all fine and understated until someone wields a sword.

May’s rating scale:

MAY!

May?

meh…

meh?

MESS.

(The following is actually a response I wrote for a class. I haven’t written a review in a while, and I thought this could serve both purposes.)

Howard’s End, a film adaptation of a novel of the same name by E. M. Forster, recounts the relationship of three families in England at the beginning of the 20th century. The Wilcoxes are wealthy and landed capitalists; the Schlegels appear to be bourgeois, and the Basts represent the lower middle class. The movie is marvelously cast, and the acting is exquisite, bringing a quiet power to the movie’s overall understatedness.

The film seems to depict the tension between these three socioeconomic statuses. Henry Wilcox, played by Anthony Hopkins, seems content to interact with the bourgeois sisters, Margaret and Helen Schlegel, who are played by Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter. Henry even marries Margaret. However, his rootedness in tradition emerges when Helen Schelgel becomes pregnant by Leonard Bast, played by Samuel West. First, Helen is not married when she becomes pregnant, and according to tradition, she should be shunned. Secondly, the other responsible party is a man from a lower class than the Wilcoxes. Helen should have not have become involved with him.

In keeping with tradition of double standards in a patriarchal society, Henry Wilcox’s past emerges when he admits to Margaret that he had a mistress. He cannot be bothered with this particular skeleton when Margaret brings up this fact to show how hypocritical Henry is as she asks him to allow Helen to stay his estate, Howard’s End, for one evening. He adamantly refuses. Life has always been a certain way for him, and he refuses to see anything differently.

It isn’t until Henry’s son goes to prison for murdering Leonard Bast (seeming a true hate crime) that he undergoes a change of heart.  He decides to bequeath Howard’s End to the Schlegels, and Helen plans to raise her new son as heir.

Howard’s End illustrates the shift in mentality in early Modernist England, regarding who should own land and how the classes should interact. In certain aspects, the country at that time slowly opened itself up to new and evolving ideas of society.

***

Emma Thompson’s character wore ties. I want to do that.

A little discussion.

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