Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 59


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,100
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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.

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Critic Reviews for Disgrace

All Critics (59) | Top Critics (20)

  • 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.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Nina Caplan

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's hard to say what this solid but unadventurous film adds to Coetzee's powerful source material.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • A worthwhile film which is concerned to do the right thing by a modern classic.

    Dec 4, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • This disquieting drama serves as a platform for Malkovich, whose eloquent performance draws you in with great compassion.

    Dec 4, 2009
  • As the last shot lingers, you long to find out what happens next.

    Dec 4, 2009
  • 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.

    Oct 2, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Disgrace

  • Oct 23, 2012
    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, <i>Disgrace</i> is simply great, especially for those of you interested in post-colonial theory.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 26, 2012
    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.
    Jens S Super Reviewer
  • Apr 04, 2011
    In "Disgrace," David Lurie(John Malkovich) is an English professor at a university in Cape Town, a job he has become increasingly disillusioned with. At the same time, he seduces Melanie(Antoinette Engel), one of his students. Of course, not everybody is happy with this relationship as it becomes increasingly public, especially after she attempts suicide. During an official university inquiry, David walks off and promptly resigns, not caring about his pension. He uses the time off to visit his daughter Lucy(Jessica Haines) whose girlfriend has just left her. This leaves her otherwise alone in a remote part of the country with her garden and kennel, employing Petrus(Eriq Ebouaney) as a general handyman. First and foremost, "Disgrace" is a beautifully filmed movie about the changing nature of post-Apartheid South Africa. I should point out that this is not the warm and fuzzy approach, but is instead deeply unsettling, centered around an unspeakable act of violence that occurs offscreen. This highly provocative allegory seeks to explore the future of the white minority who seek to protect their status behind locked gates in suburbs. Any difference in attitudes seems to be generational as it is David who has not adjusted well, shocked at how Petrus feels at home in his daughter's home. On a related note, David must also be told to change his status as a middle-aged lothario.(Of course, I don't have a problem with interracial relationships but they have to occur when race is irrelevant and I don't think that's the case with David.) In the end, John Malkovich's ability to play unlikable characters allows him to succeed in playing a character who at first comes off like just a heel but gets more sympathetic as time goes on.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 17, 2011
    Disgrace is the story about a womanizing Cape Town professor who moves to the countryside with his lesbian daughter where they get embroiled in the messy politics of post-apartheid South Africa. At first I thought this movie would be some comedy about a Casanova professor trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter. This movie was through-and-through a heart-breaking drama that started off about one thing and ended up being about something else entirely. The second half of the movie especially had me infuriated. I couldn't understand what was going through his daughter's head living in this part of the country after all of the danger and trauma and found myself angry at her and her neighbors and just not being able to wrap my mind around her logic or actions or her anger towards her father. I didn't like this film because I found myself almost hating a number of the characters in the film, even the daughter after what she goes through. I wouldn't recommend this movie unless you want to find yourself yelling at the TV screen, but that's just me.
    Remi L Super Reviewer

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