Hello my fellow Americans. Greetings from your globe-trotting film critic. I’m writing to you this semester from London, where amid the hustle and bustle of one of Europe’s largest cities I have still managed to make time to continue with my studies and see a movie or two. My latest expedition to the cinema was a viewing of Iris (Miramax), a new film recounting the life of author Dame Iris Murdoch, adapted from the loving memoirs of her husband, John Bayley.
We first meet young Iris (Kate Winslet, Quills) and John (Hugh Bonneville, Notting Hill) swimming serenely through crystal clear water.
Director Richard Eyre, former director of the Royal National Theatre, makes seamless transitions between the young woman and her elder counterpart masterfully played by Dame Judy Dench (Shakespeare in Love). Dame Iris is no longer the carefree youth that she once was, and is now lecturing a group of university students. Eyre demonstrates the love that Iris has for words, which continues throughout her life. Also in the audience of the lecture is her husband John Bayley, poignantly portrayed by Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge).
Throughout the course of the movie we learn that Dame Iris was a vivacious woman in her youth whose passion extended outside the confines of the classroom. We see that during her relationship with Bayley she had many lovers but always returned to stuttering, awkward and desperately loving Bayley in the end.
The two marry, and from their marriage stems a lifelong commitment to one another and to each other’s writing. It is while Iris is working on her most current manuscript that we see her initial decline into Alzheimer’s, which she finally succumbs to. Her final descent into illness is absolutely devastating to watch.
The entire cast does such an exquisite job of giving emotion to their real-life characters that each moment seems to be more heart wrenching and tear jerking than the last. It is little wonder that the movie has been nominated for numerous British Film Academy Awards. The audience cannot help but fall hopelessly in love with Iris, and through Richard Eyre’s vision, we are able to see the Iris that Bayley fell in love with.
Do not shy away from this touching biopic of one of the most dynamic writers of our time. It is a movie that will touch both your mind and your heart.