Howards End (James Ivory, 1992) from the novel by Forster, prod. Ismail Merchant, dp Tony Pierce-Roberts, ed. Andrew Marcus, music Richard Robbins; Vanessa Redgrace, Helena Bonham Carter, Joseph Bennett, Emma Thompson, Prunella Scales, Anthony Hopkins, James Wilby, Jemma Redgrave
In Edwardian Britain, Helen Schlegel becomes engaged to Paul Wilcox during a moment of passion, while she is staying at the country home of the Wilcox family, Howards End. The Schlegels are an intellectual family of Anglo-German bourgeoisie, while the Wilcoxes are conservative and wealthy, led by hard-headed businessman Henry. Helen and Paul quickly decide against the engagement, but Helen has already sent a telegram informing her sister Margaret, which causes an uproar when the sisters' Aunt Juley arrives and causes a scene.
Months later, when the Wilcox family takes a flat across the street from the Schlegels in London, Margaret resumes her acquaintance with Ruth Wilcox, whom she had briefly met before. Ruth is descended from English yeoman stock, and it is through her family that the Wilcoxes have come to own Howards End, a house she loves dearly.
Over the course of the next few months, the two women become very good friends, even as Mrs. Wilcox's health declines. Hearing that the lease on the Schlegels' house is due to expire, Ruth on her death bed bequeaths Howards End to Margaret. This causes great consternation to the Wilcoxes, who refuse to believe that Ruth was in her "right mind" or could possibly have intended her home to go to a relative stranger. The Wilcoxes burn the piece of paper on which Ruth's bequest is written, deciding to ignore it completely.
Henry Wilcox, Ruth's widower, begins to develop an attraction to Margaret, and agrees to assist her in finding a new home. Eventually he proposes marriage, which Margaret accepts.
Some time before this, the Schlegels had befriended a self-improving young clerk, Leonard Bast, who lives with a woman of dubious origins named Jacky. Both sisters find Leonard remarkable, appreciating his intellectual curiosity and desire to improve his lot in life. The sisters pass along advice from Henry to the effect that Leonard must leave his post, because the insurance company he works for is supposedly heading for bankruptcy. Leonard takes the advice and quits, but has to settle for a job paying much less, which he eventually loses altogether due to downsizing of its business. Helen is later enraged to learn that Henry's advice was wrong; Leonard's first employer had been perfectly sound but won't reemploy him.
Months later, Henry and Margaret host the wedding of his daughter Evie at his Shropshire estate. Margaret is shocked when Helen arrives with the Basts, whom she has found living in poverty. Considering that Henry is responsible for their plight, Helen demands that he help them. However, Jacky becomes drunk at the reception, and when she sees Henry she recognizes and exposes him as a former lover from years ago. Henry is embarrassed and ashamed to have been revealed as an adulterer in front of Margaret, but she forgives him and agrees to send the Basts away. After the wedding, Helen, upset with Margaret's decision to marry a man she loathes prepares to leave for Germany, but not before giving in to her attraction for Leonard having sex with him while out boating.
Fearing that the Basts will be penniless, Helen sends instruction from Germany to her donnish brother Tibby to make over £5000 of her own money to Leonard. Leonard returns the cheque uncashed, refusing to accept the money through pride.
Margaret and Henry marry, with the pair arranging to use Howards End as storage for Margaret's and her siblings' belongings. After months of hearing from Helen only through postcards, Margaret grows concerned. When Aunt Juley falls ill Helen returns to England to visit her, but when she receives word that her aunt has recovered, avoids seeing Margaret or any of her family.
Fearing that Helen is mentally unstable, Margaret lures her to Howards End to collect her belongings, only to turn up herself with Henry and a doctor. However, on first glance she realizes that Helen is heavily pregnant. Helen insists on returning to Germany to raise her baby alone but asks that she be allowed to stay the night at Howards End before she leaves. When Margaret requests this from Henry, he stubbornly refuses and the couple bicker.
The next day, Leonard, still living unhappily in poverty with Jacky, leaves London and travels to Howards End to see the Schlegels. When he arrives he finds the pair, as well as Henry's brutish eldest son Charles. Charles quickly realizes that Leonard is the baby's father and begins assaulting him for "dishonoring" Helen.
In his rage, Charles beats Leonard with the flat of a sword, and Leonard grabs onto a bookcase for support. The bookcase collapses on him, which causes Leonard to have a heart attack and die.
Margaret tells Henry that she is leaving him to help Helen raise her baby, and Henry breaks down, telling her the police inquest will charge Charles with manslaughter.
A year later, Paul, Evie, and Charles's wife Dolly gather at Howards End. Henry and Margaret are still together, and living with Helen and her young son. Henry, who is not looking well, tells the others that upon his death, Margaret will inherit Howards End and leave it to her nephew. Margaret wants none of Henry's money, which will be split among his children. Dolly points out the irony of Margaret's inheriting the house, revealing Mrs. Wilcox's dying wish to leave it Margaret. Henry tells Margaret he did what he thought was right. She says nothing.
Garry Gillard | New: 23 October, 2021 | Now: 18 November, 2021