The Dead (1987)

Imdb Ranking 7.1

The last movie made by the great John Huston is set in 1904 Dublin. The Dead is based on a James Joyce short story. It is Christmas family and friends are meeting at a party given by Aunt Kate and Aunt Julia, who are anxiously watching over the proceedings. There is piano playing, singing and there is talking. Aunt Kate comments on how Freddy Malins' mother made him take the pledge, but she is sure he will still show up drunk, and he does not disappoint. Mary Jane is a niece who lives with her aunts, and earns her living by teaching music. She plays a beautiful piece on the piano for the guests. Nephew Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta Conroy (Angelica Houston) arrive and are greated by the aunts. Gabriel reviews books for an English paper, and it rebuked for it by one of his more patriotic dance partners. Mr. Grace then stands up and preforms a recitation of a poem, "Broken Vows" which was based an 8th century Irish ballad . It ends with "You have taken the east from me; You have taken the west from me; you have taken what is before me and what is behind me; you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me; and my fear is great you ghave taken God from me!" Only the Irish can speak with such beauty. While most of the guests comment on the beauty of the piece, Gretta is visibly shaken up by it.

When Gabriel is invited out to the Aran islands for the summer he turns it down. He is one who doesn't revel in his heritage. Gretta would love to go to the west of Ireland but Gabriel tells her she can go if she wants to. Aunt Julia sings a song and the camera scans the possessions of the house. Freddy Malins stands up and tells Julia that he never heard her sing so well.

Gabriel carves the goose and dinner is on. Small talk about food, Caruso, the opera and the theater breaks out but talk of politics is discouraged. Freddy keeps interrupting the flow of the conversations with his drunken statements.

Gabriel, after consulting his notes, stands up and gives a speech about Irish hospitality and of absent friends. He toasts the three hostesses of the night and then the guest sing their appreciation.

As the evening breaks up the guests start to head out. The hostesses are thankful that Freddy wasn't so bad this year. As Gabriel and Gretta get set to leave Mr. D'Arcy sings a ballad from an upstairs room. Gretta is transfixed of the stairs and Gabriel just watches her wondering what she could be thinking. At the end of the song Gretta sees Gabriel at the bottom of the stairs and heads down to meet him.

Back at the hotel Gretta and Gabriel discuss the night. Gabriel asks Gretta what she is thinking about. Gretta tells him that she is thinking about the ballad and a person long ago who used to sing that song. It was a young boy she used to know in Galway, Michael Furey. He used to sing thst song, "The Lass of Aughrim." Gretta tells a jealous Gabriel that Michael is dead. He died when he was only 17 .

Gretta was in love with him at the time, or as she puts it "I was great with him at the time." Gretta says she thinks he died for her, because she was leaving, and he was ill. As Greta tells the story she cries. She was to leave for Dublin and michael came shivering in the rain to see her. After Gretta was gone for a week he died.

Gretta breaks down crying as she finishes the story with Michael's death. Michael thinks 'How poor a part I've played in your life', as he sees the passion his wife had for this other man.

A beautiful film that takes a short look at life and death in Dublin.