Iris | Chicago Reader

Iris

90 minutes

I'd hoped never to resort to calling a movie "well-done," because the expression seems dutiful and as such dishonest. But I'm tempted here because even though I appreciate this 2001 movie's craft, I wish I hadn't seen it. It's a heady, progressive—or perhaps elaborately conservative?—romance, but it's also a tale of terrible suffering. The interplay of flashbacks and framing story is surprisingly fluid as it condenses the relationship of novelist Iris Murdoch (played by Kate Winslet and Judi Dench) and her husband John Bayley (played by Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent), fusing two of the couple's major struggles: in the scenes set in the 50s their views on fidelity threaten to separate them; in the 90s Murdoch's Alzheimer's does. The movie is based on two books by Bayley that director Richard Eyre has called “by definition highly subjective.” But however they've been interpreted, a writer losing her connection to language and a devoted couple losing their connection to each other are sad ironies, the kind that life presents most of us with often enough. Eyre wrote the screenplay with Charles Wood.

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