The Dead Review

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Past lives and secrets are revealed on the evening of a Christmas dinner held by two spinster sisters in Ireland, for their friends and family.


John Huston’s final film is one of cinema’s most achingly sad studies of shattered illusion. Adapted from James Joyce’s sublime story, it effortlessly establishes a Yuletide sense of goodwill and nostalgia, as Dublin sisters Cathleen Delany and Helena Carroll host their annual soirée on Twelfth Night, 1904.

However, this genial gathering is a mere MacGuffin: the pertinent action occurs in the closing scenes, as literary critic Donal McCann discovers wife Anjelica Huston’s lingering passion for a long-dead suitor on the cab journey back to their hotel, and then lies in the midnight silence, as the snow falls outside, and laments how little we really know even about those closest to us.

John Huston's labour of love is moving and perceptive.