A Handful of Dust (1988)

PG  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  24 June 1988 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 1,407 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 13 critic

The wife's affair and a death in the family hasten the demise of an upper-class English marriage.


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Last
Brenda Last
Richard Beale ...
Jackson Kyle ...
John Andrew
Norman Lumsden ...
Jeanne Watts ...
Kate Percival ...
Miss Ripon
Richard Leech ...
Roger Milner ...
Tristram Jellinek ...
Richard Last
Mrs. Rattery
John Beaver
Mrs. Beaver


We see the detritus of an abandoned camp in South America and a main character's hallucination. Then, the story beings. Tony and Brenda Last, lord and lady, live on his enormous estate with their young son. Tony's not much for parties, and Brenda joins London society, on the arm of a penniless man, John Beaver, a hanger-on at Tony's club. John is encouraged by his entrepreneurial mother, who sees a quid in Tony and Brenda. Brenda and John become lovers, Brenda spends more and more time in London, and Tony's without a clue. Then, bringing things to a head are tragedy, law suits, greed, and what should be a few-months' expedition to Brazil. We are each of us merely a handful of dust. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Romance


PG | See all certifications »




Release Date:

24 June 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust  »

Box Office


$1,560,700 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The picture got Oscar nominated in one category for the Best Costume Design Academy Award in 1989 but lost out to Dangerous Liaisons (1988) with both films actually having George Fenton as the same music composer. See more »


Referenced in The Benchwarmers (2006) See more »


King Of Love My Shepherd Is
Traditional Irish melody
Words by Henry W. Baker (1868)
See more »

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User Reviews

Classically English, if slightly untidy film
5 December 2007 | by (London, UK) – See all my reviews

The hammerblow of human cruelty dressed in the velvet glove of pre-war hoch-Englishness. It's distressing that terrible things happen to the pathetic yet likable protagonist Tony (James Wilby) - even more so that they are delivered in the slow drip of self-interested scheming rather than in galvanising dramatic confrontations.

Actually, Wilby is one of the two weak links of this film. He's not quite got the richness or range to suggest a redemptive development to his character. He's not sympathetic enough. The other might be Sturridge's peculiar, impressionistic direction that can fail to give the story enough propulsion.

What the film does have are a number of fine performances from a top-drawer supporting cast. One fears Alec Guiness may be a final-frame cameo, but his contribution is in fact at least as substantial as Brando's in Apocalypse Now. Kristin Scott Thomas is quite excellent, at once endearing and blindly self-interested. And I also liked very much Pip Torrens, a really sharp study of a new sort of British gent - modern and knowing, but no cad. 6/10

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THE NEWS OF JOHN'S DEATH. national_bouton-1
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