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)
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User Reviews

a lot of smoke but no real fire
21 August 2013 | by (Sweden) – See all my reviews

A story that raises many questions, even good ones, but gives only a few answers. A great cast, James Wilby is for example excellent as Tony Last, goes to work in this beautifully filmed melodrama set in the early thirties i UK and Brazil. The period feeling is great and so are the settings. The story is built up around a doomed marriage, but it is hard to really understand why. There is a lot of smoke here but no real fire until the late and great Sir Alec Guiness comes to work in the last 30 minutes creating a frightening illiterate fan of Charles Dickens. But superb acting on all hands and high class camera-work is not enough although the film is worth watching especially if you have a love for British culture and history, and don't we all...

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THE NEWS OF JOHN'S DEATH. national_bouton-1
Gosh I really hated Brenda Last , what a horrible human being FlorenceLawrence
Handful of Dust bebold
DVD Quality vexata
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Is the opening his suicide? kftweedy
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