Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
In a novel and intriguing approach to storytelling, director David Hare has created an engaging mystery and human drama that ostensibly focuses on an innocent dinner party but is really about something else. Jean Travers (Vanessa Redgrave) is an old-maid schoolmarm who has lived in Wetherby, a small town in northeastern Yorkshire, all of her life. She is still haunted by memories of a passionate love affair with a young man who was later murdered while on military duty in Malaysia nearly 35 years ago in the '50s. One evening, Jean invites a group of friends over for dinner; the group is comprised of two couples, one of which spends the time sniping at each other. A young man, John Morgan (Tim McInnerny) is also in the dinner party. Jean thinks he was brought along by one of the couples; the couples, in turn, believe he was invited by Jean -- in short, he is a total stranger that everyone assumes is a friend of someone there. As the evening progresses, political topics of the moment are brought up and chewed over; Margaret Thatcher, Richard Nixon, and other notables of the era are discussed, and various comments are made on the laziness of today's youth. The dinner party ends, and the next day John Morgan comes back to visit Jean. While she is in the midst of preparing tea for them both, he takes out a gun and kills himself. The shock waves from his senseless act later reverberate among the dinner-party guests, as the police investigator tries to piece together the man's background and the dinner party itself. Questions are raised about his motives, and viewers see the dinner party again, moment by moment, in an entirely new light.
death, diner, dinner-party, guest, loneliness, schoolteacher, shoot-out, suicide, suicide-attempt
High Artistic Quality, Sleeper