Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Iris. (Film Review: Flowering Iris)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Iris. (Film Review: Flowering Iris)

Article excerpt

Iris * Directed by Richard Eyre * Written by Eyre and Charles Wood * Starring Hugh Bonneville, Jim Broadbent, Judi Dench, and Kate Winslet * Miramax

As an urban stoic who is able to keep tears at bay for anything, from the chopping of a very large onion to the election of a very small president, I was stunned at the power of John Bayley's Elegy for Iris (excerpted in a 1998 New Yorker issue) to make me weep. Charting the mental unraveling of wife Iris Murdoch from Alzheimer's disease, it radiated with the writer's adoration of his subject, attaining a state of grace and a perfection of prose that can't be faked.

Something akin to that glow can be read in Jim Broadbent's face in an early scene from Iris, when, as a graying Bayley, he beams with wonder at Murdoch as she delivers a lecture on the importance of education. It doesn't hurt that Murdoch is being played by Judi Dench, who achieves that magical balance of beatitude and pragmatism we have come to expect from her. But even without Dench, even without knowing a thing about Bayley or his history with Murdoch, you can infer from Broadbent's pixilated stare thai something very profound has gone down between these two people.

You don't have to have read a word of Iris Murdoch or John Bayley to be affected by Richard Eyre's film version of Elegy for Iris, a Shadowlands-like hybrid of love and ill health among the literati. There is nothing particularly innovative in the film's structure which efficiently weaves scenes of Murdoch's degeneration from Alzheimer's with resonant echoes from the couple's early years together. Rather, we thrill to the juxtaposition of four amazing actors trading turns as the literary lovers in their prime and autumnal years.

Oh, to have one's life realized on-screen by Judi Dench and Kate Winslet--Norman Mailer should be so lucky. …

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