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

Starring: Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent
Director: Richard Eyre
Rated: R
RunTime: 91 Minutes
Release Date: December 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Penelope Wilton, Samuel West, Juliet Aubrey, Eleanor Bron

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Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Perhaps love can conquer everything - but not Alzheimer's. Based on John Bayley's two memoirs about his wife, British novelist/philosopher Iris Murdoch, this is the heart-wrenching story of a loving couple's valiant battle with that degenerative disease. What elevates the tragic concept are four amazing performances: Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville as the young pair and Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent as their aging counterparts. Spanning 43 years, the screenplay by director Richard Eyre and Charles Wood intercuts flashbacks of the courtship of a high-spirited, lusty, bohemian novelist by a staid, stammering University lecturer with their later married life as a renowned author and literary critic in an unkempt Oxfordshire manor house. Problem is: while we witness their amicable interaction, we know little about them as individuals - except her credo: "Only one freedom is worthwhile, that of the mind." Murdoch's manipulative promiscuity is mentioned, but there's no hint of her passion for Plato's philosophy nor her intolerance of children. And Bayley's merely a devoted, socially inept cipher. It's frustrating to have the characters remain so remote. But that's in the writing, not the performances. Judi Dench is phenomenal, particularly when she realizes that something is dreadfully wrong as she tries to spell the word "puzzled" - and it's not just forgetfulness. Jim Broadbent matches her every step of the way on her debilitating descent into confusion and darkness. As their energetically youthful peers, Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville mesh seamlessly. The physical resemblances are uncanny - as is Martin Walsh's astonishing editing. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Iris" is an intelligent, insightful, unconventional 9. It's a touching, thought-provoking personal drama for sophisticated audiences.

Copyright 2001 Susan Granger

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