Merchant Ivory's triple Oscar-winning depiction of class conflict in Edwardian England, 'Howards End' is lavish even by the production company's own sumptuous standards. Although the social and political allegories are clear, the film succeeds on the back of fine writing by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (who with director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant forms Merchant Ivory Productions) and expert performances by a brace of big name Brits.
Dying Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave) leaves country pile Howards End to modest young confidante Margaret Schlegel (Emma Thompson) who then begins a relationship with Ruth's philandering widower Henry (Anthony Hopkins). Margaret's sister (Helena Bonham Carter) disapproves but her own relationship with lowly clerk Leonard (Samuel West) has disastrous consequences and what follows is a prolonged power-struggle centred around the fate of Howards End itself.
An incisive and sophisticated satire that relishes the opportunism, hypocrisy and misguided philanthropy of its characters.
"A film of extraordinary beauty as well as an extraordinary sensitivity in its representation of human predicaments & passions. (Also, I hated the novel.)" - Whit Stillman