Howards End (1992) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A businessman thwarts his wife's bequest of an estate to another woman.

  • Encounter of three social classes of England at the beginning of the twentieth century: the Victorian capitalists (the Wilcoxes) considering themselves as aristocrats, whose only god is money; the enlightened bourgeois (the Schlegels), humanistic and philanthropic; and the workers (the Basts), fighting to survive. The Schlegel sisters' humanism will be torn apart as they try both to softly knock down the Wilcox's prejudices and to help the Basts.

  • Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter) falls for Paul Wilcox (Joseph Bennett), but is rebuffed. Her sister Margaret (Dame Emma Thompson) becomes friends with his mother, who promises her the family house, Howards End. Unfortunately, after her death, the will disappears and it appears the inheritance will disappear. Until the widower, Henry Wilcox (Sir Anthony Hopkins), becomes attracted to Margaret.

  • England, early 1900s. Margaret Schlegel (Dame Emma Thompson) befriends Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), the sickly wife of Henry Wilcox (Sir Anthony Hopkins), a man of significant wealth. On her deathbed, Ruth bequests her house, Howards End, to Margaret, but this is deemed non-binding by her family, and Margaret doesn't hear of the inheritance. Meanwhile, Margaret's sister Helen (Helena Bonham Carter) has taken a philanthropic interest in Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a poor, working class man. When Henry Wilcox and Margaret get engaged, Helen sees her chance to help out Leonard.

  • In Edwardian England, three families, representing three classes, have an impact on one another. The central characters are middle class sisters Margaret (Dame Emma Thompson) and Helen Schlegel (Helena Bonham Carter). Margaret befriends the seriously ill Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), matriarch of the Wilcox family, who have a country estate known as Howards End. The younger Helen takes an interest in Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a working class clerk. As Margaret gravitates towards the Wilcoxes, eventually marrying Henry Wilcox (Sir Anthony Hopkins) after Ruth's death, Helen identifies more and more with Leonard and his wife Jacky (Nicola Duffett), particularly after advice they've given him, originally from Henry Wilcox, turns out to be incorrect, and for which Leonard pays a heavy price. The clash amongst them leads to tragedy.

  • In the early twentieth century London, the upper class Schlegel siblings, Margaret (Dame Emma Thompson), Helen (Helena Bonham Carter), and Tibby (Adrian Ross), are liberal, straight talking people who indulge themselves in philanthropy and in discussions of the arts and literature. They begin an association with the similarly upper crust Wilcox family. The Wilcoxes, husband and wife Henry (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and Ruth (Vanessa Redgrave), and their grown children, are in London temporarily from their Hilton country home, Howards End, which has long been in Ruth's family, and where Ruth was born. Most specifically, a friendship develops between Margaret and the sickly Ruth. Their friendship is despite an auspicious past association between the two families, namely a doomed romance between one of the Wilcox's sons, Paul (Joseph Bennett), and Helen, and the fact of the Wilcoxes being more conservative and pretentious in their outlook than the Schlegels. In this regard, the Wilcox children take after their father, the children who believe Margaret has ulterior motives in befriending their mother. In a similar vein, Helen does not much like the Wilcoxes beyond her past association with them. At the same time, the Schlegels also befriend a man named Leonard Bast (Samuel West), a poor clerk, who has what Margaret refers to as a romantic ambition in life, and who has a strong sense of doing the right thing as demonstrated by his marriage to a woman named Jacky (Nicola Duffett), who he does not love, but to whom he feels protective. Helen in particular feels it is their obligation to help the Basts in whatever way they can. In their associations with the Wilcoxes and the Basts, Margaret and Helen take different paths to a common point a few years down the road.



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