I just finished watching this, and I have a few questions.
First, I did not get the point of the "birds and the bees" storyline at all. Mr. Darlington, Mr. Stevens' employer, had a godson about to be married, and he asked Mr. Stevens not only if he would explain the "birds and the bees" to the godson, but also if he knew what the "birds and the bees" meant. And then Mr. Stevens gave a comletely unintelligible explanation. I couldn't help but wonder:
Would a man really think that his twenty-something godson would not have at least known about sex? Would an employer, although probably holding the common expectation that his butler would exhibit his loyalty by remaining celibate for life, really think that a 50ish man might not actually know about sex? And what do you think was intended by Mr. Stevens' totally inept explanation -- that he was too embarrassed to give the godson a sex talk, or that he did in fact not know about sex?
And a more central question, where exactly was the evidence of "repressed love" in this story? Although I understand why two people in their position would resist their feelings by behaving very formally and properly, I saw no romance at all between Miss Kent and Mr. Stevens. All I saw was a woman who was very pushy and invasive toward him (insisting on putting flowers in his office although he did not want them, badgering him mercilessly about the book he was reading when he clearly wanted to keep it private) and a man who was condescending, even cruel, to her.
Although this movie had some very interesting parts, the storyline of repressed love and the movie more generally, was quite a disappointment. I could not believe that it won any Oscars, and was especially surprised that it was more highly rated than, for example, "Sense and Sensibility" (another period movie featuring Emma Thompson).
By the way, I have been recently hooked on British period films. Interestingly, I found "Remains of the Day" and "Howards End" to be two of the least enjoyable, yet these were the two most highly acclaimed of those I have seen. (I wonder if the academy has an inflated opinion of anything starring both Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, as these two films did.) Others that were less acclaimed, but that I found more interesting and enjoyable than these two include "From Time to Time," "Sense and Sensibility," (I found both of these to be just wonderful) and, to a lesser degree, "Mansfield Park."