Handful of Dust, A (1988): Charles Sturridge’s Version of Evelyn Waugh’s Novel, Starring Kristin Scott Thomas

Charles Sturridge’s “A Handful of Dust” is a hansomely mounted, well acted, but ultimately disappointing version of the famous novel by Evelyn Waugh.

Set amongst Britain’s aristocracy of the 1930s, the tale centers on the stodgy and boring country squire Tony Last (James Wilby) and his bored wife Brena (Kristin Scott Thomas), who open their doors to the poor but charming John Beaver (Rupert Graves).

In due course, Beaver begins an affair with Brenda, while Tony remains clueless. Tony’s secluded world comes tumbling down, when Brenda demands a divorce shortly after their son’s accidental death.

When Tony realizes that his divorce settlement will cost him the estate of Hetton Abbey, he escapes to South America in the company of a dotty explorer.

The direction of Sturridge, who built a name for himself in the landmark TV series “Brideshead Revisited,” is pedestrian, placing too much emhasis on atmosphere and décor (the film was Oscar-nominated for costume design) rather than characterization.


Running time: 114 Minutes.

Directed by Charles Sturridge

Released: July 1, 1988.

DVD: November 16, 2004


James Wilby as Tony Last

Kristin Scott Thomas as Brenda Last

Rupert Graves as John Beaver

Anjelica Huston as Mrs. Rattery

Alec Guinness as Mr. Todd

Judi Dench as Mrs. Beaver


Oscar Nominations: 1

Costume Design: Jane Robinson


Oscar Awards:  None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Costume Design Oscar was James Acheson for “Dangerous Liaisons.”