We meet Jack Lewis (played by Anthony Hopkins) in Oxford, England in the 1950’s. Jack is a Christian scholar and a novelist (published as C. S. Lewis). He lives near his work as a teacher at Oxford College and – along with his brother, Warnie (by Edward Hardwicke) – is a “confirmed bachelor”. Jack’s is a world of intellect where he has little need or interest in others, he has minimal social activity and his small group of friends has the favorite hobby of debate on philosophy and religion. Jack’s creative outlet is his writing and he is well known for his series of children’s fantasy books (the “Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”). Jack has been exchanging letters with a fan – a highly intelligent and fascinating American poet Joy Gresham (by Debra Winger). One day she and her young son Douglas (by Joseph Mazzello) arrive in England to meet him. Although they represent contrasts of life, Jack and Joy immediately form a connection and gradually become friends. Joy has fled a difficult marriage in America and plans to divorce her husband, so Jack offers her a platonic marriage to allow her British citizenship. Over time, Jack and Joy’s commitment to each other becomes so much more than a formal arrangement and Jack is surprised to be awakened to the sheer joys and utter heartbreak of true love. As they face life’s challenges together, Jack will do anything to keep Joy and his new family safe, until a life-test challenges his deep religious beliefs when he can do no more to help his true love.
This is a marvellous movie. As with many of Richard Attenborough’s works, this is a lavish production with authentic costumes, wonderful scenery and careful design. It’s glorious beauty is delivered through direct focus on the emotions involved in this unique relationship. We are carried along with Jack (C.S.) Lewis on his voyage of discovery of love so late in his life. We experience his growing love for his wife and step-son, Douglas, depicted beautifully by the director and we exprience the sheer anguish of this couple as they face the realities of Joy’s illness – again, through excellent script and direction. Anthony Hopkins’ performance is excellent (no surprise there) and Debra Winger is outstanding as Joy Gresham. As a result, this performance earned her a nomination for Best Actress in the 1994 Academy Awards (Oscars). The movie is based on the true story of the life of C.S. Lewis, as depicted in the play by William Nicholson. His screenplay was also nominated for an Oscar in the same year.
Made in 1993. Directed by Richard Attenborough