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A Handful of Dust

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The year is 1932 and Tony and Brenda Last (James Wilby and Kristin Scott Thomas), a devoted and attractive couple with one son, John Andrew, appear to live an idyllic life in the huge Victorian Gothic house which is the symbol of Tony's family pride. One weekend they inadvertently play host to John Beaver (Rupert Graves), an idle young socialite. It is the chance arrival of this penniless scrounger which irrevocably shatters the gentle balance of their lives.

Adapted from Evelyn Waugh's Jazz Age satire, A Handful of Dust is a brutal story of a failed marriage with shattering consquences. James Wilby stars as a country gentleman, Tony Last, who loves rattling around his expansive estate, Hetton Abbey. Tony's wife, Brenda (Kristin Scott Thomas), however, pines for London's excitement and commences an affair in the city with penniless aristocrat John Beaver (Rupert Graves). The fallout of Brenda's betrayal includes a family tragedy and creative divorce settlement ultimately undone when fed-up Tony goes on a naturalist trek through Brazil and becomes the hostage of a mad, illiterate explorer (Alec Guinness). One might wonder whether it's more appropriate to laugh or tremble at these events, and director Charles Sturridge's handsome, graceful production ingeniously accomodates the story's streaks of dark comedy and horror. With brief, memorable supporting roles for Anjelica Huston and Stephen Fry. --Tom Keogh

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: James Wilby, Kristin Scott Thomas, Richard Beale, Jackson Kyle, Norman Lumsden
  • Directors: Charles Sturridge
  • Writers: Charles Sturridge, Derek Granger, Evelyn Waugh, Tim Sullivan
  • Producers: David Wimbury, Derek Granger, Jeffrey Taylor
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: HBO Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: November 16, 2004
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001ADB64
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,548 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Handful of Dust" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By on December 20, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Evelyn Waugh's novel gets more than your average "period piece" treatment here. Art direction is a plus, as are costumes, set design, and score. But there's also a consistent (and coherent) effort to convey the sense of inevitability present in the novel. Thanks to superb acting (particularly by James Wilby and Kristin Scott-Thomas) that effort pays off. You feel the main cahracters spiralling down - but there seems to be no way to guess their end. Rupert Graves is also very good, but Judi Dench and Alec Guiness in comparatively smaller roles give us performances that are as luminous as ever. Intriguing score. Why not 5 stars? Tempo. Pace. A few minuts less wouldn't hurt it - they're not essential to plot or characterization, they just let the camera take in the beautiful sets languidly... Maybe for some people that would be deserving of a 5th star. Maybe. I still think it's a beautiful music, the acting is superior and it's something of an unknown gem.
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on December 30, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This is a brilliant adaptation of Waugh's sharply satirical novel "A Handful of Dust" (also worth reading). The pace is beautiful and I thought the casting was perfect. Kristin Scott Thomas is remote and succinct as Lady Brenda, James Wilby as her husband Tony is restrained panic. Giving Rupert Graves the part of near-sociopathic Mr Beaver was a stroke of genius. He is good-looking without being overly unctuous.
The story is set in England of the 1930's. Tony and Lady Brenda, and upper class couple who live mostly in the country, have been married for seven years when Tony invites a man from his club to come and stay, Mr Beaver. Brenda gets an odd hankering for their guest, even though Mr Beaver proves himself to have feet of clay over and over again - but then so does she. There is a slow decline in Tony and Brenda's relationship, the deterioration filtering through layers of genteel gossip and impeccably good manners. The ending has a marvellous twist to it also. The script retains some of the sharpness of the Waughs novel, and much of the humour.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue VINE VOICE on August 26, 2007
Format: DVD
"A Handful of Dust," (1988), based on Evelyn Waugh's famous novel by the same name, a jazz-age satire, was made by London Weekend Television, which invested in an unusually strong cast for a television movie. Perhaps as a result of this, the film received theatrical distribution, by Miramax, in the United States.

The film stars James Wilby as Tony Last, so involved in trying to live a nineteenth century lifestyle, and keep his estate Hettam afloat, that he fatally fails to notice his wife Brenda (Kristin Scott Thomas) is bored silly. Rupert Graves appears as John Beaver, (he's what they used to call a bounder); Brenda mistakenly turns to him for solace and fun. (And, of course, by doing so, she gives London's bored silly smart set something to gossip about.) Dame Judi Dench plays Mrs. Beaver, John's opportunistic, shop-owning mother. Anjelica Huston appears as the helpful Mrs. Rattery; Stephen Fry as Brenda's callous brother. Alec Guinness turns in a bravura performance as Mr. Todd, a man you don't want ever to meet. But it can truthfully be said that each of the actors makes the most of his/her part.

The movie is beautifully filmed on location, in Brighton, East Sussex, and London, England. Carlton Towers, Selby, in the north of England, North Yorkshire to be precise, stands in for Hettam. "Dust" then moves on to what's supposed to be the Brazilian jungle, though it's actually filmed in Venezuela, around Angel Falls, the world's third highest. (Of course, we're to understand that this jungle is only slightly more bloodthirsty than that of London society.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Allan M. Lees on August 18, 2011
Format: DVD
As other reviewers have noted, the acting is first-rate across all roles both major and minor. There's a dreadful fascination in watching a woman utterly destroy the husband who has given her everything - wealth, leisure, kindness, love - without ever once acknowledging what she is doing. This is a superb character study, based on Evelyn Waugh's wife, and full of accurate details and acute psychological observation. This is a very uncomfortable movie because it deals so exactly with its theme: the thoughtless destruction of a man's entire life by the very person who owed everything to him. Not to be missed, but not to be watched easily.
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20 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A. Gyurisin on January 19, 2005
Format: DVD
I will admit, I was not a fan of this film during the first fifteen minutes when it nearly went into the "Period Film Sleeping Bag" category, but after you get through this first hump (which is to wean out the naysayers) this is a very disturbing and thoughtful film. In fact, I loved it. It took me awhile to think about it after the first viewing, but I was very impressed. Not only did this film break the boundaries of the dreaded "Period Piece Snore-fest", but also the standard of some films dating after 1988. When I watch films from the 80s, I normally do not see this caliber of writing and intensity. While it may have been around, most films were not ready to dive headfirst into it yet, but apparently Charles Sturridge has no fear. Instead, he gives us a biting story about social decline and satire, while all the while luring us deeper into this very depressive world. Amazing actors, an extremely powerful story, and an ending that will knock your socks off, A Handful of Dust was an unexpected, yet much needed, surprise.

Feeling like a combination of Requiem for a Dream and Angels & Insects, this period piece film offers more than just torrid love affairs and snobbery, it gives us this brief, yet powerful, glimpse into a world turned upside down by the squandering of a woman. I don't mean to sound sexist, but Sturridge does paint a picture where Kristin Scott Thomas' portrayal of Brenda does not paint a pretty picture of the perfect marriage. When Tony is left time and time again with John Andrew while Brenda is off gallivanting around London with John Beaver, our emotions are not placed within Brenda's arms, we care about Tony and his reaction if he were to ever discover the truth.
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