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RELEASED: 2001, Cert. 15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 90 mins
DIRECTOR: Richard Eyre
PRODUCERS: Robert Fox & Scott Rudin
SCREENPLAY: Richard Eyre & Charles Wood
MUSIC: James Horner
Judi Dench as Iris Murdoch (when older)
Jim Broadbent as John Bayley (when older)
Kate Winslet as Irish Murdoch (when young)
Hugh Bonneville as John Bayley (when young)
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Iris is a film based on the author Iris Murdoch's sad decline into Alzheimer's Disease.
Her story is told partly in the present and partly using flashbacks to her past, showing how she met her husband John Bayley and their subsequent life together. As the couple moves into their twilight years, Iris's state of mind gradually deterioriates, whilst her husband John, who becomes her devoted carer, sadly watches his beloved wife completely lose her grip on reality.
Even though I haven't read any of Iris Murdoch's novels, I felt compelled to watch this biographic film which gives a brief précis of the author's younger life, but more importantly concentrates on her later years when Alzheimer's Disease took hold.
The film jumps back and forth from Iris's past (the young Oxford University student Iris being played by Kate Winslet with her fellow student and husband to be, John Bayley, being played by Hugh Bonneville), presenting what came across to me as a huge contrast between her being a rather racy young woman and the nervous, shy, borderline socially inadequate John Bayley who she chose to settle down with. Although I found it interesting to discover what kind of person Iris Murdoch was during her university days, I felt that part of the film could have benefited from being injected with a bit more sparkle, as although she was a spirited, independent young woman, for me the lifestyle she led before settling down wasn't presented with as much frivolity as it could have been.
All of the main cast members played their parts brilliantly, with my absolute favourites being the two male leads, Hugh Bonneville as the young John Bayley and Jim Broadbent as same when older. Of course Judi Dench too was superb, and I particularly liked her harrowing facial expressions as Iris's increasing levels of confusion and forgetfulness terrified her. Kate Winslet also gives a commendable performance as the young Iris Murdoch, although I feel the limitations of those flashback parts of the film prevented bringing out the very best in her as an actress, which could have been stimulated had that extra sparkle - the sparkle which I feel was lacking - been present.
For me, the film of Iris as a whole is steeped in grim, fuzzy mood of depressiveness......even the parts where she was young and living the life of Riley. The problems facing families when one member slips into Alzheimer's are put across so very well though, especially watching John Bayley stand by his wife through thick and thin, not 100% understanding what was wrong with her at first, yet constantly being by her side. He also had to contend with seeing those fleeting moments where the real person will peep through just for a moment, before the grey curtain of confusion slips down once more.
I felt so very sorry for John Bayley, a very easy-going man who also comes across as slightly inadequate, having to cope almost alone with watching his wife slip bit by bit away from him - there in body, but not in mind. His frustration once tipped over into a very angry outburst, marvellously acted by Jim Broadbent, which comes as quite a shock whilst watching the film, as John Bayley is otherwise so very mild-mannered. Typically of some people who are striving to cope with a loved-one suffering from Alzheimer's (or any other very debilitating illness), John refused professional help which although in one way it may have been to his detriment as he clearly wasn't coping, in another way it kept him close to his wife.
Overall, Iris is a compelling, yet heart-rending film which as far as the Alzheimer's aspect is concerned, fires on all cylinders, is brilliantly acted, yet isn't stupidly sentimental. It is an intelligent biographical story of a highly successful author's deteriorating state of mind, and how not just she, but also how others around her did or didn't cope with it. However, it is very dark and depressing in parts. My only very minor gripe is, as mentioned above, I'd like to have seen Iris Murdoch's early years spent at university lightened up somewhat.
I perhaps mistakenly would guess that Iris as a film may appeal more to women than to men, but also say to the men that although this is a 'human story' production, you've no need to worry that it might be laden with sick-bucket sentimentality, because it honestly isn't. It is a powerful drama.....rather bleak and depressing, but intelligently put together with some truly stunning acting.
At the time of writing, Iris can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £4.13 to £34.99
Used: from £2.75 to £4.50
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I remember when this film was first released back in 2001. I was very young at the time but can remember it was much talked about and critics were giving it rave reviews. At the time I didn't know a great deal about the plot but I remember recognised Kate Winslet from, of course, Titanic. I knew I would like to see this film some time in the future because of its popularity so I was quite sure it was one that I would like to see. That was over ten years ago now and in all honesty I had forgotten all about the film until I saw it being advertised on Netflix as a British film based on a true story. As soon as I saw the title I knew I had to watch it so I watched it this morning. As I watched this on Netflix this is a film only review.
The film begins by introducing us to a young Iris played by Kate Winslet. She is carefree and very happy. She is surrounded by good friends and she is enjoying life and living it to the full, going to parties and dating rather handsome men who she knows are quite a catch. She is writing a novel but wont let anyone read it and she doesn't think for one minute she will ever find a publisher willing to take a risk on it. She is good friends with a young man called John though there is nothing more to their relationship, they are simply good friends who enjoy one anothers company.
Skip forward to the present day and we are introduced to an elderly woman. She is an author and lives with her husband John. We soon learn that this is infact Iris in her later years. We see that she did actually marry John in the end and she has been an extremely successful author who is well known for her first class novels. The couple seem very happy and it is clear that they know one another very well and care deeply for the other. However, there is a small niggle that is worrying Iris. Her memory seems to be fading and she keeps finding herself repeating what she has already said. She and John are both worried, could it be something more serious than a simple case of forgetfulness?
The film timeshifts from the present day to back when Iris and John were younger. It shows Iris' story in two parts with her young adult life portrayed in half the film and her later years shown in the other half.
I had really rather high expectations of this film. I had been waiting to see it for so long and I can still remember the way people were raving about the film when it was first released so therefore I thought it must be something pretty special.
Prior to watching this film I didn't know a great deal about the plot other than it focused on the life of a very well known author. I found myself completely wrapped up in the plot from the very beginning of the film and I was keen to see what happened throughout Iris' life that left her where she was today.
Initially I really didn't like Kate Winslet's character of the young Iris. I thought she was a bit of a tease who flirted with John regularly and lied to him about her sexual orientation and she knew that the closer she became to him the more likely it was that he was going to get hurt. I think that the reason I didn't like her was because John was such a gentleman. He was intelligent and cared very much for Iris, he wasn't like other men who were keen to get to know Iris intimately, instead he just wanted to spend time with her and enjoy her company. However, as the film progressed and I saw more of the older Iris I did begin to like Kate Winslet's character a little more as I could see how things had turned out in the end and as she got older she did calm down and start behaving a bit more acceptably.
The film was really easy to follow and there was absolutely no confusion about what was happening when and I didn't find that it was jumpy at all, instead the past and present flowed really well with one another. The plot could have easily been very predictable because in effect we saw some of the ending right at the beginning but it wasn't at all. There was so much to learn about both Iris and John and although in all honesty there weren't exactly any pivotal moments there still remained enough mystery to keep me interested and intrigued to continue watching. The film is definitely one that is a progressive film revealing small aspects of the plot gradually rather than building up to one big climax but I think this progressive nature worked extremely well. By progressing on through Iris' story slowly it allowed us to really get to know her and John and as a result of this I did begin to feel very protective over them both. Initially I did prefer the character of John to Iris but soon I loved Iris just as much as John.
The plot is very moving. The disintegration of the memory and the brain is an absolutely heartwrenching illness and although, thankfully I have never had to deal first hand with this kind of illness it is a cause that is very close to my heart. Judi Dench plays the older Iris and she does a superb job of displaying just how scared Iris really is. Of course, she gets frustrated at times and confused but her key emotion is fear. She is understandably absolutely terrified and the way Judi Dench portrays this, I as a viewer really felt as though that was really her and she wasn't playing a character.
The elder John who is played by Jim Broadbent whose acting skills are of an equally high standard to those of Judi Dench's. Personally, I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like when your loved one begins to forget things and things begin to go downhill like they did for Iris. John loved his wife very much, that was clear and he was keen to do absolutely anything to care for her, to keep her safe and to keep her as happy as he could. His role of both husband and carer must have been extremely difficult for him and it was clear to see that he was very frustrated at times which is entirely understandable.
Of course, the film does have some very similar aspects to it as The Notebook which is probably my favourite film so as soon as I learned what the plot was about I was quite sure this would be a film that would definitely tug at the heartstrings. The film really helps to highlight Alzheimer's and Dementia and in my opinion displays the onset of it and also the suffering by both the patient and their family very well.
It seems a bit wrong to say I enjoyed the film as it is about such a tender subject and it really did make me think and respect all actors for portraying their characters so well. But I found it an absolutely superb film and there is no doubt that I would watch it again. It is a touching story that really did have me hooked from the start and the plot is something that will have a connection to a lot of people. I felt the film was very honest and open about the illness and it helped to make it a bit more understood how difficult it is for both the sufferer and their loved ones, it showed the ups and the downs and I really appreciated the strong acting skills and the thought and time that had clearly gone into making this film.
This film is definitely a brilliant film, there is no doubt about it. I am surprised that it isn't more famous and well known than it is - when I came to write this review there was only a couple of others when I thought there would be much more than this. The film is of an extremely high standard and has been very well planned and made, the acting is first class as is the way that poor Iris' story is told.
The film is an adaptation of the true story of British author Iris Murdoch's life.
It follows both her and husband John from their young adult years to old age.
It was released in 2001.
It was directed by Richard Eyre.
It was written based on books by Iris' husband, John Bayley.
Richard Eyre and Charles Wood produced the screenplay.
Kate Winslet (young Iris)
Judi Dench (Iris)
Hugh Bonneville (young John)
Jim Broadbent (John)
The film runs for 91 minutes.
It is rated a 15 in the UK due to upsetting scenes and scenes of a sexual nature.
IMDB users give it a rating of 7/10.
Iris stars some of the most well known British actors of the present day. The story is moving and at times is difficult to watch but the portrayal of the story is done extremely well and I believe that the director and actors have managed to capture a very difficult subject and educate viewers a little more about the condition that Iris suffered from.
Overall, an exceptional film that I would definitely recommend and I think that I will end up buying the DVD at some point.
O.K, if your going to the movies for a good time, DON'T go and see this film. I felt it was one of the most depressing (and sad) films I have ever seen. It is the true story of the novellist Iris Murdoch and how she has been overcome by Alzheimers disease. The film is based on her husbands, John Bayley, memoirs of his life with her. The acting is superb,I think Jim Broadbent (as the old John Bayley)gives one of the best performances I have ever seen. The film is split into current action of the old Iris(an always excellent Judy Dench) battling against Alzheimers, and flashbacks of Iris as a young woman at the peak of her sexuality and life. In the flashback sequences Iris is played by Kate Winslet who I feel is the weakest actor in the film (although she is by no means bad) and John Bayley is played by Hugo Bonneville who is almost as good as Jim Broadbent. The quality of the makeup of the actors means that it is incredibly convincing that they are younger and older versions of the same person. I heard Jim Broadbent say in an interview that in America they thought he played both the old and the young Bayley! The flashback sequences work incredibly well, illustrating the vitality and influence of the young Iris, compared to how this is robbed from her through this terrible degenerative disease. But, and this is a big but, it is just like watching a documentary. If your interested in Iris Murdoch, Alzheimers disease, or seeing amazingly good acting, then go and see this film. However it is not uplifting in any way, this is a warning, it is like watching a documentary about how a terrible disease destroyed a womans life, NOT FUN. Don't get me wrong it is a stunningly good film, but be prepared to cry and leave the cinema feeling a little deflated. However it would be a mistake not to see the many qualities of this film. My recommendation is to go and see another film afterwards, something more cheery, (I went to see Oceans Eleven) then you will be able to a
ppreciate Iris for what it is but not feel depressed for days afterwards.
I'll admit it, if it wasn't for the fact that I had tickets from the Radio Times and was seeing 'Iris' for free, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Despite the classy names (Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, the sublime Jim Broadbent), I probably would have made excuses, and persuaded Mrs Lazenby to see something violent and silly instead. Biopics never fire my imagination, and the idea of an Altzheimers movie, however well made, doesn't exactly make you leap from your chair and grab your coat. Degenerative Brain Disease - The Movie: admit it, you're not exactly foaming at the mouth to see it, are you? So OK, I went, and not seeing 'Iris' would have been a profound mistake. It's a genuinely very good film. It tells you almost nothing about Iris Murdoch (her books are probably too cerebral for their qualities to be communicated effectively in a movie anyway), and it has a few obvious flaws we'll deal with in a minute, but the world probably needs a few movies like this. First, the flaws. I'm sick of seeing Kate Winslet's breasts. I'm sorry, but there you are. I haven't yet seen a film which was improved by Kate stripping off, and 'Enigma' was none the worse for her keeping her bra on. Not profound, but worth mentioning. You may see this as a recommendation, but frankly, if you're willing to sit through a very depressing film just to see her assets once again, you need to get out more. Perhaps more seriously, Richard Eyre is a theatre director, not a film director; like all theatre directors of his generation (Trevor Nunn, Peter Hall, Adrian Noble), he should stay in the theatre. 'Iris' is a very polite, unobtrusive film about a woman who was anything but, and I think someone with a bit more verve should have made the film. His quiet, static filming style doesn't spoil the film, but it doesn't enliven it either. Thirdly, and worst of all, the film's
central conceit slightly flounders -Winslet and Hugh Bonneville play Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley when young, and Dench and Broadbent play them as older people, so the stories of their meeting and the effective end of their relationship can be intercut. But while the two actors playing Bayley are absolutely seamless - to the extent that Broadbent has been congratulated on his skill at playing Bayley when young - Dench and Winslet don't marry sufficiently well. Each individual performance is superb, but I wasn't entirely convinced that they were one and the same person. 'Last Orders', which is also out now and a film I'll be reviewing soon if you're bothered, has similar flashback sequences which work brilliantly, and a film which makes such a big deal out of its past / present structure should have been a bit more polished. But this doesn't ruin the film either, it's the difference between a very good film and a classic: 'Iris' is the former, not the latter. Everyone will rightly concentrate on Dench; I have met people who are in the later stages of this kind of brain disease, and her performance seemed absolutely perfect. She's entirely without vanity and communicates Murdoch's frustration with her gradually failing faculties with enormous humanity. But in the end, it's as much about Bayley as anything, a man who has to deal with an immensely brilliant but impossibly complicated and sophisticated woman with whom he has fallen madly in love, and then much later, has to cope with losing that woman, even though she doesn't die. Broadbent is marvellous in a potentially impossible part - in a radical turn away from the standard Hollywood disease movie, he's actually allowed to depict the anger and frustration that carers frequently feel towards their charges, and the guilt that always follows swiftly on from that resentment. It's a very humane film, cherishing the ma
gic of Murdoch and Bailey's love for each other, and underlining without a heavy hand the appalling consequences that something like Altzheimers has on the sufferer, and on the people who care for them. You will, no doubt, come out of the cinema wanting to find an envelope for an appropriate charity, and rightly so. But this isn't a dry, hand-wringing film, not like I was dreading. I think an author like Murdoch deserved something a bit more adventurous than the careful, almost TV-style that Eyre adopts, but then again, maybe this story is strong enough meat without the stylisation. I don't know whether sales of Murdoch's books will rocket as a result as the movie - this would be no bad thing - but it's a film that I urge you to go and see, even if you're as wary as I was. Purely for the beauty of Dench and Broadbent's efforts, it's worth your time.
A literary academic whose novels met with widespread commercial acclaim, the work of Iris Murdoch has a depth and elusiveness difficult to capture on screen. So for Iris, his first film as a director, Richard Eyre avoids the problematic novels and instead alternates the two phases of Murdoch's life as related by her widower John Bayley in his books Iris: A Memoir and Elegy for Iris. We see the headstrong and captivating Oxford undergraduate with academia at her feet, drawn to the gauche Bayley on account of his sincerity and understanding of what she needs to achieve for herself. Kate Winslet has the right combination of vibrancy and thoughtfulness for the young Iris, with Hugh Bonneville sympathetic as Bayley. The other phase reveals Murdoch near the end of her life, struggling to complete what would be her final novel and fulfil her public engagements as she succumbs to the effects of Alzheimer's disease. Judy Dench has given numerous fine screen performances, but none as gripping nor so heart-rending as the ageing writer who withdraws into her own world--to the consternation, anger, then acceptance of her husband, movingly played by Jim Broadbent. Cameos from such actors as Eleanor Bron and Timothy West add to the overall quality, as does Eyre's lucid script, atmospheric location filming in and around Oxford, and an attractively low-key score from James Horner. Murdoch's novels may in future receive the kind of filmic presentation that does them justice. For now, this poignant insight into episodes from the life of a great modern writer is a must-see.--Richard Whitehouse