28 user 15 critic

A Handful of Dust (1988)

PG | | Drama, Romance | 24 June 1988 (USA)
The wife's affair and a death in the family hasten the demise of an upper-class English marriage.


Charles Sturridge


Evelyn Waugh (novel), Tim Sullivan (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
James Wilby ... Tony Last
Kristin Scott Thomas ... Brenda Last
Richard Beale Richard Beale ... Ben
Jackson Kyle Jackson Kyle ... John Andrew
Norman Lumsden Norman Lumsden ... Ambrose
Jeanne Watts Jeanne Watts ... Nanny
Kate Percival Kate Percival ... Miss Ripon
Richard Leech ... Doctor
Roger Milner Roger Milner ... Vicar
Tristram Jellinek Tristram Jellinek ... Richard Last
Anjelica Huston ... Mrs. Rattery
Rupert Graves ... John Beaver
Judi Dench ... Mrs. Beaver
Pip Torrens ... Jock
Beatie Edney ... Marjorie


We see the detritus of an abandoned camp in South America and a main character's hallucination. Then, the story begins. Tony (James Wilby) and Brenda Last (Dame Kristin Scott Thomas), 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 (Rupert Graves), a hanger-on at Tony's club. John is encouraged by his entrepreneurial mother, Mrs. Beaver (Dame Judi Dench), 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 »

Did You Know?


The second of two 1980s British period movies with the word "dust" in the title. The first being Merchant Ivory's Heat and Dust (1983). See more »


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Praise My Soul King Of Heaven
Music by William Ringham
Words based on Psalm 103
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User Reviews

a lot of smoke but no real fire
21 August 2013 | by svenerik-palmbringSee 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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Release Date:

24 June 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$35,470, 26 June 1988

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Fujicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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