IMDb > A Handful of Dust (1988)
A Handful of Dust
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A Handful of Dust (1988) More at IMDbPro »

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A Handful of Dust -- An upper-crust British marriage comes undone in this dark comedy, starring Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) in her breakthrough role. Brenda and Tony Last (James Wilby, Maurice) spend their days flitting between social engagements and renovating their monstrous mansion in the country. But when Brenda begins an affair with an idle young rake (Rupert Graves, The Forsyte Saga), their apparent life of ease takes a tragic turn.


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Up 27% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Tim Sullivan (writer)
Derek Granger (writer)
View company contact information for A Handful of Dust on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
24 June 1988 (USA) See more »
The wife's affair and a death in the family hasten the demise of an upper-class English marriage. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. Another 4 wins & 2 nominations See more »
(12 articles)
Masterpiece Drama 'Churchill's Secret' Assembles Sprawling Cast
 (From Thompson on Hollywood. 22 June 2015, 1:42 PM, PDT)

Q&A: Rupert Graves
 (From The Guardian - TV News. 2 January 2015, 10:00 PM, PST)

Kristin Scott Thomas Partly Retires
 (From Dark Horizons. 4 February 2014, 2:18 AM, PST)

User Reviews:
Requiem for a Dream with Angels & Insects all mixed together! See more (26 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

James Wilby ... Tony Last

Kristin Scott Thomas ... Brenda Last
Richard Beale ... Ben
Jackson Kyle ... John Andrew
Norman Lumsden ... Ambrose
Jeanne Watts ... Nanny
Kate Percival ... Miss Ripon
Richard Leech ... Doctor
Roger Milner ... Vicar
Tristram Jellinek ... Richard Last

Anjelica Huston ... Mrs. Rattery

Rupert Graves ... John Beaver

Judi Dench ... Mrs. Beaver

Pip Torrens ... Jock

Beatie Edney ... Marjorie

Stephen Fry ... Reggie

Graham Crowden ... Mr. Graceful
John Quentin ... Brenda's Solicitor
Timothy Bateson ... MacDougal

Moyra Fraser ... Mrs. Northcote

Marsha Fitzalan ... Polly Cockpurse
Annabel Brooks ... Daisy
Tamsin Olivier ... Veronica
Maureen Bennett ... Marjorie's Maid
Hugh Simon ... Travel Agent
Alan Hay ... Club Porter
Matthew Ryan ... Club Page
Cathryn Harrison ... Milly
Alice Dawnay ... Winnie

John Junkin ... Blenkinsop
Peggy Aitchison ... Waitress (as Peggy Atchison)
Christopher Godwin ... Dr. Messinger
Jeannette Baillie ... Rosa
Julian Infante ... Indian Spokesman
Wiliam Gonzalez ... Indian Singer

Alec Guinness ... Mr. Todd
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Giles Bickford ... (uncredited)

Directed by
Charles Sturridge 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Derek Granger  writer
Charles Sturridge  writer
Tim Sullivan  writer
Evelyn Waugh  novel

Produced by
Nick Elliott .... executive producer
Derek Granger .... producer
Jeffrey Taylor .... executive producer
Kent Walwin .... executive producer
David Wimbury .... associate producer
Original Music by
George Fenton 
Cinematography by
Peter Hannan 
Film Editing by
Peter Coulson 
Casting by
Celestia Fox 
Production Design by
Eileen Diss 
Chris Townsend 
Costume Design by
Jane Robinson 
Makeup Department
Miri Ben-Schlomo .... assistant makeup artist (as Miri Ben Schlomo)
Sally Harrison .... assistant hair stylist
Sandy Jelamby .... make-up: Venezuela (as Sandy Jelambi)
Patricia Kirkman .... hair stylist
Tirso Mohamad .... make-up assistant: Venezuela
Efren Salazar .... make-up assistant: Venezuela
Sally Sutton .... makeup artist
Production Management
Matthew Binns .... unit production manager
Nicolás Di Blasi .... production manager: Venezuela (as Nicholas Di Blasi)
Richard Izarra .... production supervisor: Venzuela
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Tony Aherne .... assistant director
Peter Kohn .... assistant director
Melvin Lind .... assistant director
Isabel Pares-Reyna .... second assistant director: Venezuela
Art Department
Alan Bailey .... property master
John Bailey .... dressing props
Simon Basketter .... property creator
Gordon Billings .... standby
Brian Blues .... construction
Abraham Bucce .... set decorator: Venzuela
Stephen Challenor .... standby (as Steve Challenor)
Frederick Crawford .... construction
Robert Harper .... construction
John Hedger .... construction
Ron Higgins .... standby
Alan Hooper .... construction
Richard Hornsby .... assistant art director
Reginald Keywood .... construction (as Reg Keywood)
Richard Law .... construction
Kevin Lloyd .... standby
Leocadio Lopez .... property master: Venezuela
Bill Lowe .... construction
George Malin .... dressing props
Stephenie McMillan .... set dresser
Peter Mounsey .... standby (as Peter Moundsey)
John O'Connor .... construction
Alan Perez .... standby
Brian Read .... prop buyer
David Smith .... construction
Gerry Stewart .... construction (as Gerald Stewart)
Ted Stickley .... dressing props
Dennis Wilson .... construction (as Denis Wilson)
Sound Department
Peter Bond .... footsteps editor
Ron Butcher .... sound maintenance
John Ireland .... sound editor
Angelica Landry .... assistant
Simon Manley .... assistant editor
Robin O'Donoghue .... sound re-recording mixer
Michael Parkinson .... assembly editor (as Mike Parkinson)
John Salter .... boom operator
Peter Sutton .... sound mixer
Special Effects by
Jorge Morillo .... special effects: Venzuela
Oswaldo Perez .... special effects: Venzuela
Camera and Electrical Department
Argenis Acosta .... grip: Venzuela
Francisco J. Arraiz .... electrician: Venezuela
Alexander Barroeta .... electrician: Venezuela (as Alexander Berroeta)
Angel Belfort .... electrician: Venezuela
Miguel Berzares .... grip: Venzuela
Roger Bustamante .... loader: Venzuela
Murray Close .... still photographer
Adam Cooper .... loader
Argenis Gonzalez .... electrician: Venezuela
Pedro Gonzalez .... grip: Venzuela
Alan Grosch .... electrician
Brian Martin .... best boy
Ron Maton .... electrician
Reg Parsons .... gaffer
Luke Quigley .... grip
Carlos Rosales .... electrician: Venezuela
Uwe Schult .... focus: Venezuela
Bob Smith .... camera operator
Stefan Stankowski .... first assistant camera
Angel Suarez .... grip: Venzuela
Antonio Subero .... key grip: Venzuela (as Antonio Suveros)
Brian Sullivan .... electrician
John Turner .... electrician
Alfonso Vera .... gaffer: Venezuela
Danilo Vucenovic .... still photographer: Venezuela
Paul Woods .... electrician
Casting Department
Teresa Topolski .... casting assistant (as Tessa Topolski)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Bill Coleson .... wardrobe assistant
Jenny Hawkins .... wardrobe assistant
Michael Jeffery .... wardrobe supervisor
Joy Kleiner .... associate costume designer
Tania Perez .... wardrobe: Venezuela
Gustavo Rodriguez .... wardrobe assistant: Venezuela
Editorial Department
Angelica Landry .... assistant editor
Music Department
Mark Berrow .... musician: violin
George Fenton .... conductor
George Fenton .... orchestrator
Keith Grant .... music engineered by
Gerry O'Riordan .... assistant music engineer
John Warren .... additional orchestrator
John Warren .... composer: additional music (uncredited)
Transportation Department
John Coleman .... transport
Luis Garcia .... transportation: Venezuela
Steve Hill .... transport
Maurice Newsome .... transport
Johny Rodriguez .... transportation: Venezuela
Other crew
Chris Allies .... title designer
Aracelys M. Alviarez .... adminstration: Venezuela
Nicky Kentish Barnes .... assistant to the producers
Gillian Bates .... production co-ordinator
Maria E. Gil Beroes .... production secretary: Venezuela
Simon Brito .... runner: Venzuela
Paul Cadiou .... production accountant
Saundra Chapman .... assistant accountant
Stephanie Clark .... production assistant
William Figuera .... adminstration: Venezuela
Toby Ford .... production runner
Gustavo Garcia .... adminstration: Venezuela (as Dr. Gustavo Garcia)
Roland G. Haiek Wuff .... producer for 5247 Producciones (as Roland G. Haiek)
Martin Horton .... assistant to the producers
Ovidio Jimenez .... runner: Venzuela
Christopher Knowles .... location manager
Lynda Levy .... unit publicist
Rolando Loewenstein .... producer for 5247 Producciones
Jane Moscrop .... production co-ordinator
Bob Nadkarni .... location research
Esther M. Ochoa .... ethnic consultant
Ana Maria Bartoli Pearse .... production assistant: Venezuela
David Ranegar .... adminstration: Venezuela
Francisco Sotillo .... adminstration: Venezuela
Liliana Velez .... production assistant: Venezuela
Ene Watts .... script supervisor (as Ene Vanaveski Watts)
Edward Fitzalan-Howard .... thanks (as His Grace the Duke of Norfolk)
Martin Fitzalan-Howard .... thanks (as Lord Martin Fitzalan Howard)

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust" - Australia (TV title), USA (DVD box title)
"Evelyn Waugh's a Handful of Dust" - International (English title) (alternative title)
See more »
USA:118 min
Color (Fujicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.66 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The second of two 1980s British period films with the word "dust" in the title the first having been Merchant Ivory's Heat and Dust (1983) around five years earlier.See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in The Benchwarmers (2006)See more »
Praise My Soul King Of HeavenSee more »


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27 out of 33 people found the following review useful.
Requiem for a Dream with Angels & Insects all mixed together!, 19 January 2005
Author: Andy (film-critic) from Bookseller of the Blue Ridge

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. Unlike other period piece films, we sympathize with the husband in this case, and ultimately open so wide to him that when the dramatic, and bizarre, ending occurs, we are left flabbergasted. It almost doesn't compute, but then you think about it and realize that Sturridge is a brilliant director using techniques well beyond his time.

Kristin Scott Thomas does a great job with the material that she is given. Her puppy-dog eyes seem to flutter and keep James Wilby's Tony at bay. I think that is what fascinated me about her character was that she portrayed this feeling of innocence, yet she was in complete control of the situation. That is why I think Rupert Graves' character was the most under-appreciated of them all. While some will see him as the villain of his film, I saw him as just a random person that happened to fall in love with a woman that reciprocated back, and happened to see the advantages of falling in love with her. He wanted to get rich quick, and this was his answer. Thomas could have stopped at any time and went back into the arms of Tony, but she chose not to, even with all of her innocence. Guinness surprised the daylights out of me with his role in this film, well, I guess he always does. Then there was Wilby, the most multi-layered character of the film. He showed us all the true love does exist, and that good husbands do as well. He did nothing wrong during the course of this film, yet somehow felt life hit him the most. The events that happen during this film continually to the ending happened directly to him, not really to anyone else. That surprised me. Here was a man that had all the money in the world, a gorgeous house, and a family, but found that luck was never on his side. Together, these three powerful plays hurdle through a tough film to give some genuine thought-provoking performances.

Then there was Sturridge who did his homework secretly in the darkness of his own basement to help bring this film to the silver screen. Most of Hollywood would have probably changed the story to bring about some final satisfaction. This is not the case with Sturridge who keeps the mood and themes of the film in constant view of us. We consider these people high society, with their hunting moments and huge houses, but the reality of it is that they face the same troubles that we, the normal person, do daily. They may have money, but they are human, and that is what Sturridge keeps with us during the course of the 118 minutes. He captures your attention with the characters, throws in some Twilight Zone scenes, and allows your imagination to work overtime. Anytime that a director pulls your mind into a film, the battle is already half won. This was my kind of film.

Overall, I was very impressed. This film broke me of my feeling that all period piece films were bad and dull, and had me drooling for more. While I know that not all will be like this, I cannot wait to see what other directors will dive headfirst into this untapped pool. The cinematography was pure 80s, the actors did their parts, and Sturridge brilliantly colored the themes and satires. I was surprised (and still shocked) by this film and cannot wait to show it to others … now that is the true test of a great film.

Grade: ***** out of *****

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Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for A Handful of Dust (1988)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
Gosh I really hated Brenda Last , what a horrible human being FlorenceLawrence
Question about Brenda's ending -spoilers- circus14
Is the opening his suicide? kftweedy
THE NEWS OF JOHN'S DEATH. national_bouton-1
DVD Quality vexata
Poor show (mild spoiler). roo1
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