25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iris--a heart-rending document on a life in crisis!
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...
Published on 23 Aug 2004 by Sunny
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad movie...
Wow, what a movie. It gets 5 stars for the actor's performance, but the movie gets 2 stars.
The movie as subject is very, very sad. If you are depressed don't watch it. This is not a movie to be watched twice. I thought that I will see more from the young Iris life, but it is a combination between young Iris and old Iris. However what...
Published 6 months ago by cati
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iris--a heart-rending document on a life in crisis!,
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.
Jim Broadbent is just as luminous as Dench and the scenes where he searches madly for Judi as she suddenly disappears or even his painful, frustrated outbursts are examples of what fine acting is all about. His chemistry with Dench [notice the scene where Iris tugs onto the tail of his sweater] is genuine and is what makes the film's message ring long after its over.
The script's brilliant, very taut and not even a single minute of the 86 mins running time is wasted in obscure sub-plots. The background music's suitably soothing and therapeutic complementing the film's mellowed tone and the way in which the build up of Murdoch's illness comes alive on screen [the very first scenes where she struggles with simple words to the scene where she suddenly forgets the thread while answering a question on a TV interview were hair-raising] as well as the way this tension is balanced with the screenplay meshing in her radiant youthful days all through... makes for a very thoughtful viewing.
The ironies between the two phases of Iris' life jolt you [esp. her quotes like "We have encountered all forms of goodness in its purest form before we were born, which is why we are drawn to it, unconsciously all the time" and "There is only one freedom of any importance, freedom of the mind"] but ultimately, the film's message about how exhausting a mental illness could be [both for the sufferer and the people around him/her] and how strong can a relationship be, is both grounding and fascinating.
It made me appreciate my existence all the more... hope it does something similar for all those who decide to watch it.
PS: The DVD, however, doesn't sport any worthwile extras which is quite disappointing for a film so critically acclaimed [atleast a behind-the-scenes featurette would have done some good] and other than a short commentary on Alzheimer's, the extras are as good as nonexistent.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "There is only one freedom that matters--that of the mind.",
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. These four brilliant actors are completely successful in merging time frames to create two complete characters.
The obvious symbolism and deliberate parallels between the early and late lives of Iris and John Bayley will not escape any viewer, making the sad changes in Iris's mind even more agonizing to watch, particularly for anyone who has faced Alzheimer's with a loved one. As Iris herself observes, "I feel as if I'm sailing into darkness." Beautifully filmed by Roger Pratt, the exteriors, including the water scenes, show the vastness of the world that Iris loved to explore, while the interiors show her claustrophobic confinement and the robbing of her soul. Not an easy film to watch, it is nevertheless a brilliant achievement celebrating the endurance of love, even in the face of Alzheimer's disease. Mary Whipple
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Mind,
Admittedly, there are the weepy moments when Iris adamantly vainly refuses to give in to this disease. There are the struggles with herself and her lover. The literary metaphors and ironies are abundant ("There is only one freedom of any importance, freedom of the mind") and the visual ones are somewhat cliché. Regardless, this is a fascinating work of acting by some incredible talents of our age. It's not always upbeat, but it makes you appreciate what you have and how little it takes to be happy.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The destruction of a gifted mind by Alzheimer's disease,
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. "Iris" is about the end and the beginning of a relationship, with a giant gap in the middle. Still, this film is about the growing gaps that appeared in the lives of this couple, so it is hard to say such an approach is unjustified. Again, if "Iris" is an unsettling film, then we have to remember that it should be.
The acting by the four principles is first rate, although I want to make special mention of Hugh Bonneville because he was the only one of the quartet not to receive an Oscar nomination. Bonneville does as fine of a creating a younger Broadbent as Kate Winslet does a younger Judi Dench, but apparently that is a thankless job.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't forget your hankies!,
Jim Broadbent, after his success in Moulin Rouge, plays John Bayley in such a touching way that I spent the entire film just wanting to hug him.
Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville are the quintessential younger "versions". Winslet captures perfectly the headstrong and attractiveness of a young Iris, while Bonneville continues and complements Broadbent's Bayley.
The key to this film is subtlety. From the almost imperceptible soundtrack (as it should be) to the slow revelation of relationships, this film will run the gamut of your emotions before you even realise how drawn in you are.
Most of all, this is a moving story of love, the pain of Alzheimers, and the strength of human relationships. I couldn't have suppressed my laughter or tears, and I'm glad I didn't.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fragmented Yet Celebrated,
Dame Iris Murdoch, whose career in the arts and academic life spawned some 26 works of literary fiction and several noted philosophical works, died in 1999 in an Oxford nursing home after four years in the grip of the illness.
This film, starring Dame Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent is based upon two volumes of memoirs by Murdoch's husband, retired Oxford professor John Bayley.
The books count alongside Deric Longden's in their acute yet affectionate recounting of a loved one's suffering, and this movie adaptation of them is probably one of the best examples of the book-to-film genre I have seen.
Admittedly there are occasions where for the sake of art (or convenience?) slight alterations are seemingly made in this film version, but I do not feel these departures are especially significant.
For much of the time we are permitted to peer clearly into the life of a major figure - responsible for bringing complex philosophical issues to the person in the street as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus did across the Channel.
Yet what we have is no dry existentialist/absurdist monologue in which hell is other people, but a joyous celebration of what it means to love and be human - even under the most challenging conditions.
Dame Judi Dench's clipped yet gentle recreation of the older Iris as lecturer and writer, contrasts violently with her startling portrayal of the barely coherent Alzheimer's sufferer.
Likewise Kate Winslet as the strictly polygamous and ambivalent young academic who knew her own mind offsets any idea that Murdoch was as staid and bourgeois as some of her characters - and some might say her eventual sympathies with English Conservatism - might suggest.
Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville (who recently portrayed poet Philip Larkin in a movie as relevant, if not as lavish or apparently "documentary" as this one) also deserve praise for their work in the roles of the older and younger John Bayley.
This film, which I know I am reviewing very belatedly, is quite simply one of the best I have seen in some time.
Over and above the awareness it has brought regarding the effects of Alzheimer's Disease, it deserves to survive as a human document as rewarding and complex as anything its subject wrote.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving,
In addition to impeccable performances and perceptive direction on the part of Richard Eyre, Joshua Bell on the violin lends the richness of the images an added depth.
'Iris' is not just a deeply intelligent examination of the title character's suffering, but a text which presents us with a unique approach to an emotive social issue which does not confine itself to the context of cinema.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful film,
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Judi Dench is nothing short of a superstar in front of a camera and I felt that everybody pulled their weight in this. It is a film that I'd have to describe as simply beautiful.
I can only hope I never have to deal with this sort of thing myself. I find it difficult to convey my feelings further. It is one of those films that you must watch and I am sure you will know what I mean. Honestly, its something we all should see.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Swoon...,
By A Customer
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Wither shall I go from thy spirit?",The Sea, the Sea, Under the Net) was a lover of words and the power of language. She was quite the avant-garde free-thinker as a young professor and the shy, stuttering John Bayley seemed an unlikely match for her, but fall in love they did and they shared a long and loving marriage. The movie focuses on Iris' battle with Alzheimer's disease, which gradually robbed her of the ability to use her beloved words. John cared for her and loved her until the end.
This is simply the best movie I've seen in a long time; the acting is superb as is the script. Judi Dench gives a stunning performance as Iris. It is heartbreaking to watch her steady decline, knowing how it must end. She was nominated for, but did not receive an Oscar, however, Jim Broadbent rightly won one for his role as her steadfast husband. He, too, is perfect, tenderly caring for his beloved even when she doesn't know him. When the movie flashes from Iris' present decline to John's memories of their meeting and courtship, the younger Iris is well-played by Kate Winslet. She captures the love of life and philosophy that Iris had. The James Horner soundtrack is the perfect companion to the deeply personal and yet universally-understood story of unselfish love.
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Iris [DVD]  (DVD)