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Disgrace (2008)



Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 58
Fresh: 47 | Rotten: 11

Featuring outstanding performances from John Malkovich and newcomer Jessica Haines, Disgrace is a disturbing, powerful drama.


Average Rating: 7/10
Critic Reviews: 15
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 3

Featuring outstanding performances from John Malkovich and newcomer Jessica Haines, Disgrace is a disturbing, powerful drama.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 1,977

My Rating

Movie Info

Set in Cape Town, a twice-divorced literature professor retreats to his daughter's farm after having an impulsive affair with a student.


Art House & International, Drama

Anna Maria Monticelli

Apr 27, 2010

Maximum Film Distribution

Watch It Now


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All Critics (58) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (47) | Rotten (11) | DVD (4)

It's an enormously complicated story with great potential for reductive schmaltz, but this is avoided thanks to Anna Maria Monticelli's sharp, sensitive screenplay and superb performances.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The movie eventually begins to wilt under the sober, plodding direction of Steve Jacobs, but the thoughtful screenplay gives Malkovich a complex, increasingly reflective character arc that he plays with great feeling.

October 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Demanding but ultimately rewarding...

September 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Unfortunately, though Malkovich remains a compelling and cerebral screen presence, he comes off as too innately detached and prickly to elicit much empathy (not that his character is asking for it, mind you).

September 25, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Disgrace is an ugly movie, at times torturous to watch. It probably needs to be.

September 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I awaited the closing scenes of Disgrace with a special urgency, because the story had gripped me deeply but left me with no idea how it would end. None -- and I really cared.

September 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Steve Jacobs' adaptation of J.M. Coetzee's Booker Prize-winning novel Disgrace fearlessly pares back the layers of post-Apartheid South Africa within the microcosm of a father/daughter relationship.

April 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes

If you know the novel, you're likely to feel that something has been lost here; if you don't, you still have the film's monotonous pacing to contend with. Still, Jacobs has directed an intelligent, intriguing drama.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Sunday Times (UK)

This chilly film gets surprisingly close to the tone of Coetzee's precise prose.

December 11, 2009 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Surprisingly successful adaptation.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

A perfectly cast John Malkovich gives a superb performance in a powerful and intelligent study of a man coming back from the brink.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4

It's hard to say what this solid but unadventurous film adds to Coetzee's powerful source material.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

A worthwhile film which is concerned to do the right thing by a modern classic.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Guardian

It's a faithful adaptation, but one that's been indifferently shot by director Steve Jacobs, whose blunt technique tends to flatten the book's morose charge. Still, the acting is often excellent.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

This disquieting drama serves as a platform for Malkovich, whose eloquent performance draws you in with great compassion.

December 4, 2009
Little White Lies

Not a comfortable watch... but still powerful and clear-eyed.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

As the last shot lingers, you long to find out what happens next.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

This is tragic inevitability at one mile per hour, extending into a slow, sunbaked danse macabre the drama's heartbreak and the guilt, anguish and wrath.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

The visionary gravity of J M Coetzee's Booker-winning novel is perhaps untranslatable to the screen, but Steve Jacobs's film is a very creditable try.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Independent

The screen version does not disappoint and features an outstanding performance from John Malkovich.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

So packed with big issues that it sometimes feels like a bit too much. But it's provocative and fascinating, and never offers any easy answers.

December 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

Engaging, powerful and absorbing drama that doesn't offer any easy answers but exerts a tight grip, thanks to a terrific performance by John Malkovich.

December 3, 2009 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

More convincing as an allegory, but faithful to Coetzee's acerbic, alternative view of S. Africa's future than the usual uplifting themes of reconciliation and forgiveness.

October 12, 2009 Full Review Source:

A lethal look at the after-shock of apartheid. Tough to watch but bearing a powerful message.

October 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Monsters and Critics
Monsters and Critics

Audience Reviews for Disgrace

In Cape Town, a professor who was fired for screwing a student retreats to his daughter's ranch where they encounter provincial politics and a gang of rapist thieves.
This is an extraordinary film. The plot, drenched with post-colonial themes that expose the racism inherent in apartheid, unfolds deftly, and the characters are all compelling, drawn finely and with an uncomfortable realism. The performances are all great, especially by John Malkovich. The scenes between David and Petrus are always rich with subtext.
The film's message - even though it's too complex to be reduced to a simple moral - draws a comparison between the Lucy's rape and what white colonialists have done to the country. Additionally, the white characters are in and of themselves victims to their own greedy system.
Malkovich, as I've said, is amazing in this film, and I think he can do anything, but he can't do an accent - the one flaw of his work in this film.
Overall, Disgrace is simply great, especially for those of you interested in post-colonial theory.
October 23, 2012
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

When an middle-aged University professor is asked to leave after an affair with a student he turns to his adult daughter, a South-African farmer. Of course he doesn't find peace on the countryside. His encounter with violence and racism out in the fields shakes his beliefs, but does it change him? Malkovich is perfect, of course, in the role. But the film feels without a clear direction at times, doesn't quite seem to know where it is getting at. In the end, there is no solution, just hints of one. The setting does add a very special atmosphere to the film, though and makes it worth seeing after all.
July 5, 2012

Super Reviewer

In the first third of the film Disgrace, it seems obvious to whom and what the title refers, but once Malkovich leaves his university position in Cape Town to visit his daughter on the outskirts of a rural community, the film offers a much deeper story, made all the more poignant by the several references to Lord Byron (and if you've no backround on Byron, then most of the subtext of what goes on here will be lost on you).

Malkovich is perfectly cast as a College Professor of poetry, teaching in South Africa. He reveres Byron and uses a lot of Byron's text to justify his own self centered hedonism. He is a fatalist when the hammer finally falls (again harkening to parellells with Byron), and now at loose ends, decides to obstensively move in with his daughter.

Once there he is confronted with the natural backlash of the end of apartheid (let's just call it reverse discrimination) - which some might call justified, or.. ahem, poetic justice - but really arpartheid was a disgrace, and the aftermath just as disgracefull - not the rosy "we are the world" that has been painted so often.

The film moves at a very pedestrian pace, which gives one much time to ruminate and consider all kinds of topics - from discrimination on both sides of the coin, to the very real sense of Malkovich being a fish out of water - a highly educated man now living in a world where deepseated anger and might makes right rules the day. The kind of society that the western world is comfortable with crashes head long into a form of anarchy in South Africa, and how all sides deal with this is yet another subtext in the film.

As Malkovich struggles, not only with himself, but with what is happening around him, the film, in my opinion, makes a couple of missteps. For all his intellectual insistance that he is a blameless for what society perceives to be his transgressions, he finally apologizes to the family he allegedly has harmed. To me this played false, more of an allegory referencing the bigger picture (apartheid) - unless Malkovich's beliefs were more shaken by the events around him than the film would lead you to believe.

Further, after his mea culpa, he returns back to his daughter (who had banished him for reasons I won't get into) - a seemingly humbled man who has lost his self and seems willing to become a stone under the wheel.

There is a very telling scene, shortly before the ending in which Malkovich seemingly is offered salvation - in the form of a dog who, as dogs do, offers unconditional love and fealty. A sane man, in a sane world, would have accepted the offer and taken the dog in - but Malkovich's world and his self have been torn asunder, so he abandons the animal - in effect also abandoning his self.

Pretty deep stuff - and from what I hear, the source novel is awesome. I just wish the film's pacing was a bit sturdier and some better decisions were made in regards to certain scenes.
December 8, 2010
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

What is so fantastic about this powerful drama is not only its sheer intelligence in raising numerous questions on good and evil, morality and amorality, but that it is also gripping and completely unpredictable.
February 1, 2010

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Schande (DE)
  • Desgracia (ES)
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