At a holiday dinner in turn-of-the-century Dublin hosted by sister spinsters Kate Morkan (Helena Carroll) and Julia Morkan (Cathleen Delany), young married couple Gabriel (McCann) and Gretta Conroy (Huston) enjoy talk, music, and seasonal cheer. But as the evening draws to a close, Gretta is suddenly awash in poignant memories of a boy she loved long ago, now deceased, a fact she tearfully discloses to her husband. The revelation sheds a different light on life for them both.
John Huston’s elegiac adaptation of a short story by James Joyce, written by his son Tony and starring his daughter, is a memorable tribute to the Irish literary giant. But the film is a stunner in its own right, as it’s both a leisurely depiction of a bygone world and a solemn meditation on how “The Dead” continue to mark and influence the lives of those they leave behind. Gretta’s surprise revelation speaks to her emotional separation from Gabriel, and the gap that can remain between people who are seemingly on the most intimate terms. Gorgeously realized and directed by a master of cinema.