The House of Mirth
Film poster
Directed byTerence Davies
Written byTerence Davies
Based onThe House of Mirth
by Edith Wharton
Produced byOlivia Stewart
CinematographyRemi Adefarasin
Edited byMichael Parker
Distributed by
Release date
  • 23 September 2000 (2000-09-23)
Running time
140 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom[1]
  • Germany[1]
  • United States[1]
Budget$10 million[3]
Box office$5.1 million[4]

The House of Mirth is a 2000 drama film written and directed by Terence Davies. An adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1905 novel The House of Mirth, the film stars Gillian Anderson. It is an international co-production between the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.


Lily Bart is a beautiful but impoverished socialite accustomed to comfort and luxury. Along with her younger cousin, Grace Stepney, she lives with her wealthy aunt, Julia Peniston, who gives Lily a small allowance.

Lily genuinely admires lawyer Lawrence Selden, but he is too poor for her to seriously consider marrying. Her choices are limited to coarse, vulgar Simon Rosedale, a rising financier, and wealthy but dull Percy Gryce. Lily’s friend Judy Trenor urges her to pursue Gryce. Lily, however, cannot help preferring Selden, and during a country weekend, they take a long walk and share an innocent kiss. Gryce, with whom Lily has broken two appointments, leaves abruptly. Fearful for her future, a dejected Lily pours out her troubles to Judy's husband, Gus Trenor. He leads her to believe he will help her earn money through investment. Later, Lily purchases scandalous letters written by Bertha Dorset revealing that Selden was her lover. Lily is hurt, but keeps the letters secret.

At a wedding, Lily receives a $5,000 check from Gus Trenor, who claims to have reinvested another $4,000. Later, he invites Lily to the opera, where she is seen by her disapproving aunt and Lawrence Selden as she sits with Trenor and Rosedale. Trenor tricks her into leaving the opera and accompanying him to his home, where he tries to kiss her, claiming that Lily is not playing a fair game when she accepts his money but refuses him her attentions. When Lily arrives home, her aunt refuses to lend her the money to repay the $9,000 she received from Trenor. Lily confides in Grace, asking if she should turn to Selden for his understanding, but Grace advises against it; Grace secretly loves Lawrence and is jealous of Lily. Lily had arranged a later appointment with Selden while at the wedding, and she counts on his love for her to overcome her foolish mistakes.

While Lily is hoping to hear from Selden, Rosedale visits, proposing to her as if suggesting a corporate merger. His wealth could free Lily, yet she politely rejects his flattering but cold blooded proposal. Bertha Dorset invites Lily to the Dorsets' yacht for a European cruise. Lily accepts, desperate to escape the debts, whispers and criticism in New York.

In Monte Carlo, Mrs. Carry Fisher meets with Selden, who has arrived from London. They are both worried about Lily, travelling on the Dorsets’ yacht. Lily and George Dorset converse on deck while a young man reads French poetry to Bertha. While ashore that evening, Lily and George look for them in vain before returning to the yacht. Next morning, George enters Lily's cabin, accusing her of knowing about Bertha's indiscretions with the young poet. Lily pleads ignorance of Bertha’s behavior but when Bertha returns and Lily confronts her, saying she can no longer divert George’s attention from Bertha’s affair, Bertha turns the tables by accusing Lily of adultery with George, since Lily was alone aboard the yacht with him all night.

Back in New York, the Dorsets are still in marital discord and Aunt Julia has died. Lily receives only a fraction of her vast fortune, the bulk having been left to her cousin Grace. Now homeless and adrift, Lily is invited by Carry Fisher to stay with her and the Gormers for the summer. Carry believes Lily's two possibilities for marriage are George Dorset and Simon Rosedale. George asks Lily for the truth about his wife Bertha's infidelities, but she denies any knowledge of them. In her growing desperation she approaches Simon Rosedale. He has found out about Bertha's letters and advises Lily to use them to force Bertha to restore her social standing. He offers to marry Lily once she and Bertha are reconciled, but Lily refuses.

Lily starts working for the social-climbing Mrs. Hatch as her secretary and companion. Selden tells Lily this hurts her social standing, but she needs the money. They argue and part on bad terms. Lily goes to the pharmacy for Mrs. Hatch's laudanum sleeping medication, and begins taking it herself. After Mrs. Hatch gets into society, she discovers that Lily's reputation is a liability, so she fires her. Lily gets a job sewing for a milliner, but her growing addiction leads to her being fired for poor work. Lily visits her cousin Grace for a loan but is rejected.

Lily almost confronts Bertha Dorset with the letters written to Mr. Selden, but finding that the Dorsets have left town, she goes to Lawrence Selden, telling him she knows she lost his love. When Lawrence is not looking, she throws the letters in his lit fireplace. Lily goes home and finds her inheritance has at last been delivered. She puts the check in an envelope she addresses to her bank, and writes another for Gus Trenor, resolving her massive debt, and then takes a fatal dose of the laudanum, drifting off to oblivion in her darkened room. Finding the partially-burnt letters in his fireplace and sensing her intentions, Selden rushes to her boarding room. There, at her deathbed, holding her hand, he weeps, declaring his love for her.



Terence Davies cast Gillian Anderson because of her resemblance to the women in John Singer Sargent paintings.[5][6]

Parts of the film were shot at Gosford House in East Lothian, Scotland, and at Manderston House in the Scottish Borders.[7]


The House of Mirth premiered at the New York Film Festival on 23 September 2000. Sony Pictures Classics released it in the U.S. on 22 December 2000.[2] There, it grossed $48,770 in its opening week-end and $3,000,000 in total. The worldwide total is $5.1 million.[4]


On Rotten Tomatoes, The House of Mirth has an 81% approval rating based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10.[8] The site's critics consensus states: "Despite being a period piece, The House of Mirth's depiction of social cruelty still feels chilling and relevant for today."[8] Metacritic rated it 78/100 based on 30 critics' reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[9]

The Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw awarded the film 5/5 stars, writing: "How extraordinary that this is Terence Davies's first film in six years, and only his fifth in a career of 25 years. His signature visual touches are all there: the languorous, unhurried takes on the still-life interiors. But this has been opened out into a substantial, well-upholstered picture with more sinew and power than almost any other period drama of recent times. It gripped me like a thriller throughout: a brilliant new film from a great British director."[10] In Slant Magazine, Ed Gonzales wrote "Besides his remarkable ability to render a profound sense of past in all his films, Davies can uncannily map out the emotions of his characters via his mise-en-scène."[6]

The Washington Post's Michael O’Sullivan wrote "the real revelation here is The X-Files' Anderson, who plays Lily with subtle gradations of emotional depth unexpected from someone who has made a career out of deadpan. When we first meet Lily, her character is all radiant subtext: Her smoldering carnality -- buried beneath a veneer of social-climbing pleasantries -- seeps out in every cigarette she and Lawrence share … Later, Anderson gives a tour de force as a woman who's at the end of her rope without knowing how she got there."[11]

Awards and nominations

Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
BAFTA Awards Best British Film Terence Davies, Olivia Stewart Nominated [12]
Best Costume Design Monica Howe Nominated
British Independent Film Awards Best Actress Gillian Anderson Won [13]
Best Director Terence Davies Nominated
Best British Independent Film Nominated
Chlotrudis Awards Audience Award for Best Actress Gillian Anderson Won [14]
Audience Award for Best Adapted Screenplay Terence Davies Won
London Film Critics Circle Awards Actress of the Year Gillian Anderson Nominated [15]
British Film of the Year Nominated
British Director of the Year Terence Davies Nominated
British Producer of the Year Olivia Stewart Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Production Design Don Taylor 2nd place [16]
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actress Gillian Anderson 2nd place [17]
Best Film 3rd place
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actress Gillian Anderson 2nd place [18]
Best Director Terence Davies 3rd place
Best Film 3rd place
Online Film & Television Association Awards Best Actress Gillian Anderson Nominated [19]
Best Writing Terence Davies Nominated
Best Costume Design Monica Howe Nominated
Best Production Design Don Taylor Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama Gillian Anderson Nominated [20]
Best Director Terence Davies Nominated
Best Art Direction Don Taylor Won
Best Costume Design Monica Howe Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Gillian Anderson 2nd place [21]
Best Supporting Actress Laura Linney Nominated
USC Scripter Awards Edith Wharton (author); Terence Davies (screenwriter) Nominated [22]
Village Voice Film Poll Best Lead Performance Gillian Anderson Won [23]
Best Screenplay Terence Davies 3rd place
Best Film 3rd place


  1. ^ a b c "The House of Mirth (2001)". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 1 March 2016. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "The House of Mirth". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  3. ^ "The House of Mirth (2000)". The Numbers. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  4. ^ a b "The House of Mirth". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  5. ^ Morris, Wesley (12 January 2001). "A Fully Realized 'House' / Gillian Anderson rises to challenge of Wharton novel". SF Gate. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  6. ^ a b Gonzales, Ed (1 August 2003). "Review: The House of Mirth". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  7. ^ "Filmed here - 2000, The House of Mirth, Terence Davies". Film Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 18 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  8. ^ a b "The House of Mirth (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  9. ^ "The House of Mirth". Metacritic. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  10. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (13 October 2000). "The House of Mirth review – Gillian Anderson is Oscar-worthy in a brilliant adaptation". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  11. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (19 January 2001). "A Winning Full 'House'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  12. ^ "Film in 2001". Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  13. ^ "Winners & Nominations 2001". BIFA. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  14. ^ "8th Annual Chlotrudis Awards". Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  15. ^ "London Critics Circle Film Awards 2001". Mubi. Retrieved 24 June 2023.
  16. ^ "CROUCHING TIGER Wins Four L.A. Film Critics Awards!". Ain’t It Cool News. 17 December 2000. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  17. ^ Cardwell, Diane (7 January 2001). "Critics Group Honors Quirky List of Film Favorites". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  18. ^ "Stuck on 'Traffic' (N.Y. Crix Pix)". Variety. 12 December 2000. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  19. ^ "5th Annual Film Awards (2000)". Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  20. ^ "5th Annual Satellite Awards". International Press Academy. Archived from the original on 4 January 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  21. ^ "Past Wnners: 2001". Toronto Film Critics Association. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  22. ^ "Awards: Scripter goes to 'Wonder Boys' writers". USC News. 23 January 2001. Retrieved 17 June 2023.
  23. ^ "Where Are They Now: Winners of Past Film Polls". The Village Voice. 22 December 2009. Retrieved 17 June 2023.