The Dead


The Dead (1987)


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Movie Info

The final film of legendary director John Huston was based on the closing story of James Joyce's Dubliners. Anjelica Huston is top-billed as Gretta Conroy, the niece by marriage of turn-of-century Irish spinsters Kate Morkan (Helena Carroll) and Julia Morkan (Cathleen Delany). At the home of these two curious ladies, Gretta is prodded into remembering her long-dead lover. She tearfully reveals to her husband (Donal McCann) that the deceased boy may well have died on her behalf. Her tale of woe bespeaks the sentiment shared by James Joyce: no matter how long in their graves, the dead will always influence the living. Adding to the film's elegiac quality, it stars Huston's daughter Anjelica and was co-written with his son Tony Huston.

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Donal McCann
as Gabriel
Helena Carroll
as Aunt Kate
Cathleen Delaney
as Aunt Julia Morkan
Cathleen Delany
as Aunt Julia
Ingrid Craigie
as Mary Jane
Frank Patterson
as Bartell D'Arcy
Donal Donnelly
as Freddy Malins
Marie Kean
as Mrs. Malins
Maria McDermottroe
as Molly Ivors
Maria McDernottroe
as Molly Ivors
Sean McClory
as Mr. Grace
Kate O'Toole
as Miss Furlong
Maria Hayden
as Miss O'Callaghan
Bairbre Dowling
as Miss Higgins
Barbre Dowling
as Miss Higgins
Lyda Anderson
as Miss Daly
Dara Clarke
as Miss Power
Colm Meaney
as Mr. Bergin
Cormac O'Herlihy
as Mr. Kerrigan
Paul Grant
as Mr. Duffy
Amanda Baird
as Young Lady
Paul Carroll
as Young Gentleman
Redmond Gleeson
as Nightporter
Redmond M. Gleason
as Nightporter
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Critic Reviews for The Dead

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (8)

Anjelica Huston is effective as a woman mourning a love lost.

Aug 23, 2017 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

There's also a rather awesome and unpretentious directness as well as calmness about the way that Huston contemplates his own rapidly approaching death.

Feb 5, 2008 | Full Review…

A well-crafted miniature, this dramatization of the Joyce story directly addresses the theme of how the 'shades' from 'that other world' can still live in those who still walk the earth.

Feb 5, 2008 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A beguiling chamber piece.

Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

That Huston should have dared search for the story's cinema life is astonishing. That he should have found it with such seeming ease is the mark of a master.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Huston was an old man when he died, but he had not withered dismally with age because he still had the courage and the imagination to attempt to make an impossible film of the greatest story that he had ever read.

Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Dead

Irish bourgeois gather for the Feast of the Epiphany in this adaptation of James Joyce's story. When I read Joyce's story in Dubliners, I thought that it was unfilmable. The conflict exists in the passage of time, the inability to really know another, and the inevitability of death -- all themes that can be conveyed but with the subtlety inherent in Joyce's writing. And when I finished John Huston's adaptation of the story, my opinions haven't changed. What emerges in Huston's work is a work of too much subtlety, and I doubt that I would understand the story's point had I not read Joyce's original work. In fact, I think the film is a good "visual Cliff's Notes" of the story. The performances by Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann are both quite strong. I've never seen Huston as vulnerable as she is in the final scene, and her performance gives the film the grace and emotional power it needs. Overall, this is not a bad film; it's just a good attempt at the impossible.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

It carries a whole universe of emotions.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


This is a boring watch. However, it is important to keep in mind that it's intentional. The story is supposed to be awkward, so to the audience, the film will assuredly come across as boring. Still, this was a brilliant adaptation of the famous James Joyce novel. Most of the characters were true to the book with only a few flaws here and there. The tone and setting was spot on, though. Overall, watcheable, but not necessarily the most enjoyable film I have seen.

Jameson Worley
Jameson Worley

Super Reviewer

Disappointing adaptation of the last story in Joyce's Dubliners. It has dullness written all over it. It makes Merchant Ivory seem like Rambo.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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