(1988)4Rebecca Flint MarxAdapted from Evelyn Waugh's novel, this very British film about how adhering to very British values can lead one on a straight and unrelenting path to hell serves up the same kind of manors and manners as Brideshead Revisited (also directed by Sturridge), but it gives equal exposure to the rot and ruin lurking beneath. A Handful of Dust is a surpassingly nasty film, in which people do rotten things while maintaining a lacquered veneer of grace and civility. The hideousness of these actions, and their impact on the film's one decent character (James Wilby), constitute a trenchant, ironic indictment of essentially useless people. The film's physical look mirrors the malaise of its characters: prim and picturesque as a still from a Merchant/Ivory excursion, the staid exterior sets a deceptively ordered stage for a story about the failures of tradition. The film features great performances by Wilby, Kristin Scott Thomas as his chilly wife, Rupert Graves as her wastrel lover, Anjelica Huston as a visiting American who puts things in perspective, and Alec Guinness as a loony jungle explorer.