A curious Faulknerian tragedy involving a high school history teacher (Jeremy Irons) in Pittsburgh and the stories he tells his class about his family’s threadbare past in the English fens. At the center of his recollections are his feebleminded brother and the sweetheart (Sinead Cusack) the teacher wound up marrying. Not all of it works, but the handling of time is often bold and original, and the performances are quite affecting. Irons, who characteristically dominates, reveals here, as in Dead Ringers and Reversal of Fortune, that he’s more of an auteur than either his writer or director. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal from a script by Peter Prince based on a novel by Graham Swift; with Grant Warnock, Lena Headey, Callum Dixon, Ethan Hawke, and Sean McGuire (1992). (JR)

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