Iris Murdoch is a well known and highly respected British writer. This movie tells the life story of Iris (played first by Kate Winslet and then by Judi Dench). We meet Iris as a strong-minded young academic teaching philosophy at Oxford University in the 1940’s. She meets John Bayley (by Hugh Bonneville then by Jim Broadbent), a fellow professor and socially awkward fellow, who seems totally opposite to the free-spirited and confident Iris. But theirs is a special match and they form a deep and enduring relationship. Through John’s memories, we learn about their relationship – how they met, their courtship, his total enchantment with the vibrant and highly intelligent young novellist Iris. They have a busy social life including Iris’ long time friend Janet Stone (by Penelope Wilton). Then we watch through his eyes as her writing career flourishes and then she slowly develops Alzheimer’s disease, until it transforms her into an unrecognisable Iris who is unable to function independently and needs John’s full time care, This journey is exhausting for John and he lives with the total frustration and utter heartbreak of it.
This movie is excellent. My heart went out to both Iris and John as they lived such a wonderful and happy life, then as their world started to change and gradually erode as Iris’ disease began to take hold of her. Judi Dench is just wonderful as Iris. In fact, the performances of all three – Kate Winslet (as the flirty, flightly, excited and highly intelligent young Iris), Judi Dench (as the mature, eccentric then confused and frightened Iris) and Jim Broadbent (the totally smitten, deeply passionate, involved, tenacious and enduring John) – are just superb. They are all marvellous and Jim Broadbent totally deserves the 2001 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor here, he also won a Golden Globe award. Judi Dench and Kate Winslet are also both more than worthy nominees for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress respectively. Judi Dench received a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Iris.
A really great movie.
Made 2001. Directed by Richard Eyre