This film adaptation of the acclaimed play by Wallace Shawn takes place in an unnamed country, where a repressive regime has come to power and begun rounding up and executing intellectuals. Jack (Mike Nichols), a journalist who aspired to a career as a novelist, sits with his wife Judy (Miranda Richardson) and her father Howard (David DeKeyser). Jack has appointed himself "the designated mourner" for the death of the life of the mind, a life he freely admits that he has given up, while Howard, a stubborn intellectual, is appalled by Jack's willingness to turn his back on his principles. The Designated Mourner was filmed concurrently with the play's London run; it features the same cast and was directed by the same man, playwright David Hare. It is filmed with the actors simply sitting at tables, delivering serial monologues.
by Mark Deming synopsis