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A Handful of Dust

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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: #56,239 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Handful of Dust" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 60 people found the following review helpful By bergman@xekmail.pt 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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40 of 44 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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Ellington VINE VOICE on September 24, 2012
Format: DVD
At the end of the day, I'm not sure how to feel about `A Handful of Dust'. Part of me wants to say that it was a good film and the other part of me recognizes that the main things I really love about this film are the parts of the film I can quote in a mocking manner. It is far from a polished and logical work, but I'm dying to read the novel it is adapted from just to see if the film captured the spirit or if the campy deliciousness of some random moments was completely misapplied.

I've never wished to gif a single film as much as I have this one (google it if you don't know what I mean).

The film follows a relationship that buds between a wealthy young married woman and a charming young man with big ambitions. Brenda Last resents her husband because he is boring and consumed by his house and his small life and she becomes infatuated with John Beaver, a penniless man of sorts who thrives to take Brenda out on the town, on her own dime. As their affair grows questionable happenings take place, followed by tragedy and then a bizarre turn of events when Brenda asks for a divorce and her somewhat reclusive husband takes to a jungle expedition. It is all very strange and the ending is disturbing and oddly unsettling and yet in a way it all works.

And maybe that's because I enjoyed laughing at it.

It literally took me twenty minutes to tune my ear to their accents. I do watch British films all the time and yet the sound quality of this film is poor (if you have an accent you should not be allowed to talk while leaving a room) and so I felt myself straining to understand what was going on and missing large segments of conversations in the film's beginning.
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