Iris 2001

Amazon Instant Video

(42) IMDb 7.1/10

This inspiring biopic tells the heart-breaking story of John Bayley's 40-year romance with the novelist Iris Murdoch. It switches back and forth from their adventurous student days at Oxford and as an elderly couple struggling with the decline of Iris's brilliant mind with Alzheimer's.

Starring:
Judi Dench, Hugh Bonneville
Runtime:
1 hour 27 minutes

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Iris

Product Details

Genres Drama
Director Richard Eyre
Starring Judi Dench, Hugh Bonneville
Supporting actors Kate Winslet, Penelope Wilton, Samuel West, Timothy West, Juliet Aubrey, Joan Bakewell, Eleanor Bron
Studio Miramax
BBFC rating Suitable for 15 years and over

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By coronaurora on 23 Aug 2004
Format: DVD
Iris is one of those few films that prove the extent to which cinema can affect you emotionally. A memoir of a literary academic who gets coiled up by Alzheimer's later in life, this simple film becomes something so devastatingly beautiful and ultimately unforgettable that its hard to resist repeated viewings. The credit for uplifting it to such Everest-ian heights goes to the performances by the lead actors and the sympathy in the film's tone.
Of the performances, Kate Winslet is radiance and intelligence personified and is absolutely believable as the gifted young author that Iris Murdoch was. Hers, incidentally is the most unsympathetic and verbose character-stretch, what with her wolfish appetite for men and words, but Winslet's luminous bare-all interpretaton has a feverish, unpretentious energy to it that makes it so compulsively watchable.
Hugh Bonneville as the younger Bayley [Murdoch's fiancee and later, her husband] hasn't got the best lines, but makes sure that his stammer makes every line he utters, momentous.
But of course, Iris is a freewheeling showcase of Judi Dench's intelligence whose performance as the Alzheimer-stricken Murdoch is so heart-felt and sincere, that you can almost touch her. Having worked with patients of Alzheimer's myself, I was absolutely shocked as to how much Judi's performance [right from her body language and her slow but definite detachment from the real world] struck home. Be it the last scene where she swings in the elderly home corridor or her reactions to Blair's speech on television or even the way she reacts when her last book is out-- each of those scenes will forever haunt me as some of the most honest moments I have encountered on screen.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 25 Dec 2004
Format: VHS Tape
When author/philosopher Iris Murdoch utters these words, she has no way of knowing that Alzheimer's disease will soon rob her of that freedom, leaving her the frustrated shell of who and what she was. Author of twenty-six books and winner of both the Whitbread and the Booker Prizes, Iris, at the end of her life, was, according to her husband, like "A very nice three-year-old child." The love story of Iris Murdoch, a free-spirited, passionate lover of arts and ideas, and John Bayley, the shy, introverted man who was her anchor in life, dominates this film, celebrating her life, even as Alzheimer's disease robs it of its meaning.
Directed by Richard Eyre, who converted John Bayley's book, A Memoir and Elegy for Iris, into the screenplay, the film honors Iris, John Bayley, and the love that survived even Alzheimer's disease. Judi Dench not only looks like Iris Murdoch, but also endows her with fierce independence, a curiosity about the meaning of life, and a strong will, characteristics which served Iris well, even in her decline. Jim Broadbent, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, shows his love for her at the same time that he becomes enormously frustrated at his helplessness in dealing with her decline.
Alternating between present and past, director Eyre develops innumerable visual parallels, showing Murdoch as a wild young girl (passionately played by Kate Winslett), uninhibitedly exploring every aspect of life, with Dench repeating similar scenes (such as the swimming scenes) late in life. The young John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville) plays his role so close in style to Broadbent that except for the obvious age differences, they could well be the same person, both blushing on cue.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance M. Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on 25 Dec 2004
Format: DVD
"Iris" was a most disturbing film for me to watch, although I know exactly why it affected me so. Ever since I learned that H. L. Mencken spent the final years of his life incapacitated by a stroke that made it impossible for him to read and write (or to remember nouns), the idea of losing my mental faculties has been pretty much the worst of all possible fates for me. Similar ground is covered in "Iris," as the novelist Iris Murdoch has her mind, her marriage, and her life destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. Of course the film makes me uncomfortable; it should make anybody uncomfortable to watch a human being's life come undone like this.
The screenplay by Richard Eyre and Charles Wood, based on the books "Iris: A Memory" and "Elegy for Iris" by her husband John Bayley, attempts to convey cinematically what has been lost. Consequently we cut back and forth between the present, as John (Jim Broadbent) struggles to take care of his beloved Iris (Judi Dench), and disjointed scenes from the past, as young John (Hugh Bonneville) and Iris (Kate Winslet) meet and fall in love. Sometimes they are brief glimpses, other times extended scenes, combining to provide a disjointed pictures of these two lives.
I was surprised that I do not especially remember Iris Murdoch as a novelist; I know that I have never read any of her books. So my sense of what a great mind was lost is based entirely on what we see of Iris at the top of her game in the film. Clearly "Iris" is a film that presents these lives in fragments and pieces. We never fully understand why Iris decides to marry Jim; it must have been a superb meeting of the minds, but that is not the sense we get from the film where Jim is pretty much an amiable fuddy duddy.
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