Iris (Richard Eyre, 2001) Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville, Kate Winslet, Eleanor Bron

True story of the lifelong romance between novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, from their student days through her battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Whereas I watched Downfall (Der Untergang, Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004) for the performance of one actor, Bruno Ganz, and not at all for its subject, Hitler—I watched Iris (Richard Eyre, 2001) not at all for the superb performances of Jim Broadbent and Judi Dench, but for information. I simply wanted to get some idea, if possible, of what it's like to suffer from dementia.

The screenplay by the director (and one other) is based on the memoir by John Bayley, Iris Murdoch's husband, who is played by Broadbent in the film - and he is as good as it gets. Kate Winslet plays the younger Iris, but it's the older one who is the real subject.

Cf. Still Alice (Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland, 2014) another fine actress, Julianne Moore, in a film about dementia in a woman for whom access to functional memory is essential to their professional (and personal) identity.

Roger Ebert:
Instead of honoring the work, Iris mourns the life. It's like a biopic of Shakespeare that cuts back and forth between his apprentice days and his retirement in Stratford. Alzheimer's is especially tragic because it takes away the person while the presence remains. ...
Because the film is well-acted and written with intelligence, it might be worth seeing, despite my objections. I suspect my own feelings. Perhaps this is so clearly the film I did not want to see about Iris Murdoch that I cannot see the film others might want to see. Stanley Kauffmann's case in praise of the film in The New Republic is persuasive, but no: I cannot accept this Iris. The one in my mind is too alive, too vital, too inspiring. Roger Ebert.

Garry Gillard | New: 27 February, 2017 | Now: 2 April, 2021