Tuesday 28 December 2004

Iris (2001) - ickleReview (DVD)

Film about the Oxford writer Iris Murdoch, based on the memoirs of her husband, John Bayley. Touching performances by Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent as the older couple; Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville the younger. The Director, Richard Eyre, states that he didn't want to make a film about an illness (Alzheimer's). For the most part, he succeeded; but I think it is more Bayley's books rather than the film that are to blame for focusing too much on the impact of the illness, rather than the achievements of Murdoch the writer. The film is more a love story in two parts: the young, courting couple; and the ageing, mellowing and forgetting Iris and John. There is not much in between. The earlier years are used more as a foil against which to pit the poignancy of the illness, seeing them, perhaps, through a glass, darkly. It is endearing in itself, but this is not a biopic.

Within these narrow limits, however, it is without doubt a success. Jim Broadbent is deserving of his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. His rages and frustrations are particularly well articulated and go some way to repairing the character of John Bayley, against whom there have been many protests from admirers of Murdoch. The film explains well how he was damaged by Murdoch's freer-spirited attitude towards love, her vibrancy and charisma. There is the suggestion that he was always somewhat lonely in the relationship, perhaps felt too blessed and undeserving of such company.

Nugget: a film with modest ambitions but one which fulfills them to overflowing - often with tears.

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