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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Shadowlands

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger
Director: Richard Attenborough
Rated: PG
RunTime: 133 Minutes
Release Date: January 1994
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Edward Hardwicke, John Wood, Michael Denison, Joseph Mazzello, Robert Flemyng, Peter Howell, Peter Firth

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1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

Old saying about truth being stranger than fiction was often been proven by remarkable films being based on true stories. One of such examples is a film that turned out to be one of the most underrated tear-jerking melodramas of its time. This film was based on the unusual events in the life of one of the most influential thinkers of 20th Century. Those events were turned into stage play SHADOWLANDS by William Nicholson and later adapted into BBC TV film in 1985 (starring Joss Ackland and Claire Bloom). Eight years later, Richard Attenborrough, British director specialised for biographical films, made feature film version.

The protagonist of the film is C.S. "Jack" Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins), British writer who became famous because of his science fiction novels, children's books as well as his very passionate defence of Christianity. Lewis' personal lifestyle, however, is in total contrast with his global fame - he lives a quiet, ascetic and uneventful life of a Oxford professor, shares room with his equally ascetic brother Warnie (played by Debra Winger) and spends all free time in intellectual discussion. In 1952 his life is going to change when he receives a letter by Joy Gresham (played by Debra Winger), Jewish American poetess who claims to be a great fan of his work and wants to meet him personally. Soon, Joy comes to England bringing her young son Douglas (played by Joseph Mazzelo) and when meeting between "Jack" and Joy occurs, British professor is both shocked and attracted by Joy's openness and directness. They strike up a friendship and that relationship gradually turns into deep platonic love. Because of that love, "Jack" would agree to marry her in order to help her evade deportation from Britain. Their love, as well as "Jack"'s beliefs would soon be put to the test by Joy's illness.

Unlike previous Attenborrough's films that dealt with Great Men of History like Churchill, Gandhi or Chaplin this reconstruction of Lewis-Gresham love affair deliberately avoids visual spectacle. Instead, Attenborrough, quite aware of anything but spectacular setting, leaves most of the work to the actors. Casting is, naturally, perfect. Anthony Hopkins is excellent as quiet, reserved British intellectual who would discover love in the autumn of his life. But the best surprise comes in the form of Debra Winger, one of the most underrated actresses of past few decades. Her manages to show Joy Gresham as a woman who is physically attractive, but whose main tool of seduction comes in the sharpness of her mind. Unfortunately, both of those great actors are unable to leave truly superb impression simply because their roles in same way resemble their past achievements. Hopkins looks too much like a reserved, "stiff-upper-lip" British butler from REMAINS OF THE DAY. Winger, on the other hand in the last segment of the film brings back memories of her role in TERMS IN ENDEARMENT made ten years earlier. Their interaction is, however, great, and the rest of the cast is splendid, especially Hardwicke, John Wood and Peter Firth. Young Joseph Mazzelo as the only other American among almost exclusively British cast is also very good. George Fenton also contributes to film's elegiac atmosphere with his melancholic musical score. In the end, SHADOWLANDS should also be praised because this film, unlike most of other melodramas, adds intellectual and philosophical dimension to the romance. As a film that employs our brain as well as our emotion, SHADOWLANDS is one of the best British films made in last few years.

Copyright 2000 Dragan Antulov

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