The Designated Mourner

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama, Political

Bolstered by a trio of outstanding performances, David Hare has done a terrific job translating actor-playwright Wallace Shawn's slightly muddleheaded stage play to film. In an unidentified country at an unspecified time, two ghosts and one survivor of an obscure cultural revolution assemble in a spare room. Howard (David de Keyser) is an elderly dissident...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Bolstered by a trio of outstanding performances, David Hare has done a terrific job translating actor-playwright Wallace Shawn's slightly muddleheaded stage play to film. In an unidentified country at an unspecified time, two ghosts and one survivor of an

obscure cultural revolution assemble in a spare room. Howard (David de Keyser) is an elderly dissident poet; Judy (Miranda Richardson) is his cultured and devoted daughter; and Jack (Mike Nichols) is her husband, a failed academic. Addressing the camera, but barely speaking to one another, the

three chronicle the fall of a regime, the breakup of a marriage and the crumbling of one's sense of self. Jack does most of the talking, and beneath his anger and cynical wit lies a real sense of loss: the death of a love he could never express and the passing of "high culture" as he knew it and

of which he never felt a part. Shawn tosses around some awfully weighty topics -- what is "the self"? -- with blithe offhandedness, and it's not always entirely clear he wants to say: Jack throws stones at the cultural old guard at the same time he bemoans the passing of "the readers of poetry."

But no matter: The talk's often very good and Nichols, turning in his first performance in over three decades, is simply extraordinary.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Bolstered by a trio of outstanding performances, David Hare has done a terrific job translating actor-playwright Wallace Shawn's slightly muddleheaded stage play to film. In an unidentified country at an unspecified time, two ghosts and one survivor of an… (more)

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