Meanwhile in China, Arthur Clennam's father dies, his last wish being that Arthur return to England and put things right with his mother. He gives Arthur a watch that is to be returned to her (Mrs. Clennam). Arthur goes to England and reunites with his mother, giving her the watch. She claims not to know anything about it but opens it and reads a note it contains; it says, "Do not forget". She refuses to tell Arthur anything.
Arthur meets Amy Dorrit at his mother's house and takes a friendly interest in her. He finds out about her family's unfortunate position and wishes to help Amy. Witnessing his unpleasant mother's uncharacteristic benevolence towards the girl, Arthur begins to suspect that his family had something to do with Mr. Dorrit's ruination, and that his mother has hired Amy out of guilt. He attempts to look into the particulars of the debts which caused Mr. Dorrit's imprisonment and goes to the Circumlocation Office to try to find official documents dealing with the case.
The word "circumlocution" literally means 'roundabout speech' and is defined as "the use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive." In Little Dorrit, the Circumlocution Office is Dickens' satirical government department which is a place of endless bureaucracy where a person is sent in circles, forced to fill out form after form, buried in paperwork and governmental red tape until he gives up trying to get anything accomplished. The object of the office seems to be to stonewall and obfuscate, and give people the runaround. Gee, this sounds vaguely familiar.
Arthur's attempts to find documents relating to the Dorrit's situation at the Circumlocution Office result in him being buried in bureaucracy, the office depicted in the movie as containing a downward spiralling staircase covered in heaps of papers and documents (seen above) .
Below is a clip of Arthur's arrival at the Circumlocution Office: