Friday, October 24, 2008

Look me in the eye

I had the chance to watch Iris, starring Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Judi Dench, and Jim Broadbent this week. It's based on the book Elegy for Iris, which I read a while back and really liked. (And I thought, with this cast, how could you lose?)

Basically, the film (and the book) detail the relationship between John and Iris, two young academics who meet, fall in love, and marry. John seems in a perpetual state of admiration for Iris, who blossoms into a celebrated novelist. Clearly, John is the lover and Iris is the loved in their relationship. Iris is the sun, and John is the planet that orbits around her. And John seems ecstatic that this is the nature of things.

As the two age, however, Iris falls prey to Alzheimer's, and her fine mind, which has always been her greatest attribute (and one of John's greatest loves), begins to fail. The story follows John and Iris as the illness takes greater possession of her and John struggles to cope without the central force/focus of his life.

Performances are wonderful in this, particularly those of Broadbent and Dench. Hugh Bonneville gives an uncanny take on a young Jim Broadbent/John Bayley. This movie is sad, because it is about losing someone that you love. But there are hopeful moments, too, when John celebrates the pieces of Iris that are still left to him, the brief moments of lucidity that the universe seems to grant her.

I find it interesting that, though Iris Murdoch is much more widely-published than Bayley has been (most of his work is literary criticism), it is his silm, loving volume of tribute to her that is so well-known. Broadbent won an Oscar for portraying Bayley in this film, and it was well-deserved.

Worth seeing.

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