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Iris, based on the life of revered British writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch, is a story of unlikely yet enduring love. As a young academic, teaching philosophy at Oxford, Murdoch meets and eventually falls in love with fellow professor John Bayley, a man whose awkwardness seems in stark opposition to the spirited self-confidence of his future wife. The story unfolds as snippets of time, seen through Bayley's eyes. He recalls their first encounter over 40 years ago, activities they enjoyed doing together, and Iris' charismatic and individualistic personality. These images portray Murdoch as a vibrant young woman with great intellect and are contrasted with the novelist's later life, after the effects of Alzheimer's disease have ravaged her. Murdoch's great mind deteriorates until she is reduced to a mere vestige of her former self, unable to perform simple tasks and completely reliant on her at times frustrated yet devoted husband. Written by
This film, inspired by John Bayley's memoir in tribute of his late wife, the novelist Iris Murdoch, gives us some insight into the final years of Murdoch as she struggled with the effects of Alzheimer's Disease, and shows us how her personality developed from the quirky, intelligent student of her young days into the self-assured, measured writer at her peak.
Iris is played when young by Kate Winslet, whose portrayal veers from playful to irritating. As she grows older she morphs into the wonderful Judi Dench, giving a quite exceptional performance as the mature Murdoch. Playing John Bayley are two actors who uncannily resemble each other - Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent. Broadbent was to win awards for his performance, and rightly so, although Bonneville was no less touching.
In a well-balanced supporting cast we have Penelope Wilton, Sam and Timothy West, Eleanor Bron, and Juliet Aubrey, giving assured performances.
Is 'Iris' truly a movie about a writer, and the business of writing and creativity? Well, no, as her writing is not central to the feel of the piece (although it does touch on her gift for words, and the tragic loss of the ability to process and work with them). It is something of a downbeat film, which will leave the more sensitive amongst you with damp eyes, but essentially it is an exceptional piece of work about the destructive power of dementia and Alzheimer's.
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