THE DEAD takes place on a snowy Christmas evening in 1904 Dublin. A group of friends and relatives gather for an annual dinner. They arrive, eat and depart. In the 83 minutes of this 1987 adaptation of a James Joyce short story that is all the plot on hand. It’s not incident or resolution that matters here, but character, language and feeling.
John Huston’s farewell to the movies, and to us (the director died before it was released) is a beautiful little observation of humanity. The party guests dance, toast, sing, drink, orate, argue, reminisce. The actors are all superb. Highlight is a recitation of a piece entitled “Broken Vows” by the wonderful veteran Sean McClory.
The script was handled by Huston’s son, Tony, and was nominated for an Oscar (captured by The Last Emperor). Critics were pleased, and the Academy also gave a nomination for the Costume Design. With Anjelica Huston, Donal McCann, Dan O’Herlihy, Donal Donnelly, Helena Carroll and Cathleen Delany.