Iris (2001 United Kingdom)

IrisIris is a film which straddles a fine line, warming your heart but also breaking your heart. It’s an undeniably heartfelt, touching story. But it’s a story which you know from the beginning can only end in tears. All involved in the making of this film are to be commended for managing to bring this rather difficult story to life. The writers, the director, and the fine cast of actors have done excellent and, most certainly, very challenging work here.

There may be some small quibbles with the film but all in all one has to say it’s a job well done. Iris tells the story of one fascinating woman, renowned British novelist Iris Murdoch, and her sad descent as the ravages of Alzheimer’s take their toll. Much of this movie’s appeal is that before the disease has its impact we get to know who this woman was, what drove her. We see her brilliance, we see her vivaciousness, we see her lust for life. This makes her sad fate all the more heartbreaking. Two actresses bring the character of Iris to life and each is spot-on brilliant. When we meet Iris, she is played by Judi Dench. Throughout the film there are flashbacks where we see the young Iris, and here Kate Winslet takes up the role.

Dench probably has the more challenging part. In the film’s beginning she is playing a rather clearly brilliant woman but when the dreaded disease begins to strike Dench is left to portray a completely helpless woman who has lost all sense of who she is. A tough transition for any performer but Judi Dench is up to the task. The contrast with the Iris we see four decades earlier in Kate Winslet’s scenes could not be any more stark. What she was made of. It is in these scenes that we really see who Iris Murdoch was. Winslet throws her whole body and soul into her performance, presenting an incredibly energetic, free-spirited and undeniably strong woman. Getting to know Iris in this way is so important if we are to really appreciate the sadness that comes when this woman’s mind and spirit begins to fade away.

Kate-Winslet-nude-bush-topless-and-skinny-dipping-Iris-2001-hd1080p-5Dench and Winslet are certainly the key figures here but one must also note the very good, very important, work done by Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville who play Iris’ husband John Bayley. Bonneville plays a younger, somewhat befuddled Bayley who engages in a somewhat awkward courtship with Iris. Broadbent plays the older Bayley, who must take up the burden of caring for the woman he loves as she slowly fades away. Broadbent does a wonderful job of portraying the loving patience required in this situation. And when the moments of inevitable frustration come Broadbent is up to the challenge there as well.

Really, there is not a false step from any of the four principals in the cast. The way the story is told, cutting back and forth in time, is a big plus. Whenever the story seems to be overwhelmed with sadness at the older Iris’ fate there is a jump back to those long-ago happier days where Iris was so full of life. If there is any failing in the film it’s that you may be left wishing you got to know Iris just a little better. The film at times seems a little rushed. We certainly get an idea of who this person was but you do get the sense there was so much more there. The film seems so focused on the central relationship between Iris and Bayley that other aspects of the woman’s life seem to have been pushed aside. You may wish you got to see more, but what is presented here is a very compelling story, brilliantly brought to life by some truly wonderful performers. It’s a very well done, and very touching, film. Watch it!



Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: