The Dead (1987)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Period Film, Marriage Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 17, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 83 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Ireland , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Michael Costello

Made while the director himself was not far from death, John Huston's film version of a James Joyce story widely regarded as the finest in English is a gracious tribute to his master. The story, which is set at a small Christmas party in turn-of-the-century Dublin, concludes with a typically Joycean epiphany. While not Joyce's story, which is basically unfilmable, Huston has made a film which softened the writer's criticism of his society, lovingly depicting a world about whose parochialism protagonist Gabriel Conroy Donal McCann feels some ambivalence. The director allows scenes to flow at a leisurely pace, emphasizing the convivial nature of a gathering where all present are enacting long-familiar rituals. When "The Lass of Aughrim" is sung shortly before Gabriel leaves with his wife, Gretta Angelica Huston, she's brought up sharply. It's only after learning the meaning of this song that Gabriel grasps the mystery of Gretta's heart, and the measure of his solitude. While lacking the richness and power of Joyce's story, Huston has created something of a parallel miniature, as he contrasts the nostalgia of the party with a hauntingly Pinter-like distillate of marital dissonance.