on July 12, 2004
The movie was done well. The cast was magnificent. The scenes of the Oxford Campus were beautiful. The story drew me in. However, it did not present Lewis very well. First, it presents Lewis as being rather naive about suffering. He kept giving the same sermon over and over and implies that did not really understand suffering. This is not so. His mother died when he was very young. He was a soldier in World War 2. His close friend, Charles Williams, died around this period of his life. Second, the movie left the viewer with the impression that Lewis left his simple Christianity and grew into a better understanding of the world. He truly suffered when Joy died as the book, "A Grief Observed" describes beautifully, but he did not leave the faith.
I like the BBC version better. It is closer to the original play.
I recommend the movie, because it well done. However, I do not recommend the movie as a way to learn more about C. S. Lewis. It is a beautiful, fictional love story.
on April 7, 2004
When I discovered this movie was being made I was so excited. Unfortunately I spent most of my viewing time thinking, it didn't happen that way and WHERE IS HER OTHER KID?!?
But, if you know absolutely nothing about CS and Joy Lewis' life together and know nothing much about CS and Joy Lewis at all, you will enjoy this movie. It is a well-made, Hollywood love story. The acting is excellent and the storyline is compelling. Just keep in mind that this is NOT how it really happened and PLEASE go read for yourself the true story.
Oh, yeah, don't forget the Kleenex. It's a three box-er.
on July 10, 2004
You should certainly see Joss Ackland's version of this film, which was a BBC production and hence true to the original play etc. Come to think of it, you may also want to read the original play itself by Hanff (which is on my wishlist but I have not yet read.)
Nonetheless, the thrilling chemistry between Debra Winger and Anthony Hopkins is very, very hard to resist and I wholeheartedly recommend this supposedly "Hollywood" version. It's ranks for me in the same genre as "The Remains of the Day" and "84 Charing Cross."
To begin with, how immaculate the casting is: Debra Winger plays an uninhibited and witty American poetess, while Anthony Hopkins plays a reclusive British middle-aged scholar at Oxford.
They meet over tea. She is in a withering marriage, but in her bull-in-a-china-shop American fashion, she arrives like a fresh wind to rock his musty ivory-tower existence.
As the film progresses, her crudeness (only exacerbated by Winger's awkward NY accent) is soon peeled away to reveal a heart of gold and a life-affirming sense of humor. For instance, while escorting her around Oxford, Hopkins haughtily says, "I do not really go in for seeing the sights." In response, she says, "So what do you do, walk around with your eyes shut?"
Such sprightly but tender moments evoke the screenplay's stirring underlying message -- pain is an inevitable ingredient of love. If you are looking for a somewhat weepy but always warm and wonderful romantic film, this is one of the best you'll find.
on February 29, 2004
"I seem to play men who are sort of imprisoned in themselves," Anthony Hopkins comments in an interview included on this movie's DVD. And although this adequately characterizes a mere fraction of his work, roles like that of butler Stevens in Merchant/Ivory's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Remains of the Day," Henry Wilcox in E.M. Forster's "Howards End" (also by Merchant/Ivory) and even Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter, illustrate Hopkins's minimalist approach to acting, which makes him so uniquely qualified to play emotionally restrained men, locked up behind the walls erected by convention, trauma or madness. Thus, while bearing little physical resemblance to the real C.S. Lewis, atheist-turned-Christian scholar and bestselling author of the famous "Narnia Chronicles," Hopkins was a natural choice for the role in this movie about Lewis and his wife-to-be, American poet Joy Gresham (Debra Winger).
Albeit subtitled "based on a true story," "Shadowlands" doesn't purport to recount the couple's relationship in its full complexity - that would take much more than a 2 hours, 15 minutes-long film, if it were accomplishable at all. On equally strong intellectual footing, Joy Gresham and "Jack" Lewis were bound to each other not only by a joint interest in literature and because Joy challenged all assumed bases of Lewis's scholarly life, but also by their personal geneses as convert Christians (he coming from atheism, she from Judaism, at least partly influenced by Lewis's writings). Obviously for reasons of dramatic streamlining, director Richard Attenborough and screenwriter William Nicholson - who adapted his play for the big screen after having already scripted the 1985 BBC production featuring Joss Acklund and Claire Bloom - chose to cut down on several facts and persons, such Joy Gresham's second son David (who is not mentioned at all), Lewis's 1954 move from Oxford's Magdalen College to similarly-named Magdalene College at Cambridge (likewise not included), the alcoholism of Lewis's brother Warren ("Warnie") (which is substantially downplayed, as is the abusiveness of Joy's first husband Bill Gresham) and Lewis's complicated friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien (who surprisingly is not at all among the featured Oxford scholars). Similarly, at least according to some accounts Lewis was not quite the bachelor he is shown to be here, possibly having shared more than tenancy of The Kilns (where he and Warren still lived when he met Joy) with Janie King Moore, 25 years his senior and mother of his college roommate Edward "Paddy" Moore, who died in WWI. With regard to Lewis's and Joy Gresham's relationship itself, the movie espouses the view of some biographers that the couple's April 1956 wedding was merely a marriage of convenience designed to allow Joy to stay in England - and that Lewis only fell in love with her after she had been diagnosed with cancer (although she had evidently been taken with him for a considerably longer time) - but here, too, much remains disputed: inevitably so, as this goes to the very heart of their romance; a romance, moreover, growing in an environment not exactly encouraging to the baring of one's soul to outsiders.
Be that all as it may, however, "Shadowlands" is an emotionally and visually stimulating, tremendously powerful production, centering on the recognition that there are only two ways to deal with love: either to shut it out, thus avoiding pain as much as you're foregoing bliss, or to embrace it, thus also allowing for the sorrow it may bring. As a boy, Lewis chose the former: Unable to cope with his mother's death and reconcile it with the idea of a benevolent God, he chose atheism over religion and, later, a scholar's protected, emotionally unchallenging existence over matrimony; this remaining his choice even after having accepted Christianity, now explaining human suffering as "God's megaphone for shouting at a callous world." Yet, all that was called into question when he met Joy who, with her outspoken nature, progressive views, ex-communist background and New York Jewish upbringing was the most unlikely match conceivable for him; and soon made herself unpopular with his Oxford colleagues, e.g. by pointedly rebuking Christopher Riley's (John Wood's) remark that men have intellect where women have souls (which incidentally could well have come from Lewis himself, who had once explained his refusal to marry by noting that then "all the topics of conversation would be used up in a fortnight"). Yet, what had started with a courtesy meeting over tea with a self-professed admirer soon blossomed into a stimulating intellectual exchange and, based thereon, friendship - although Lewis still clung to the idea that there was nothing more to their relationship. Indeed, just *because* Joy was a woman with whom he could have the intellectual exchange he had heretofore only known with men, he could accept her as a friend while keeping her at an emotional distance ... or so he thought. Only the realization that he would soon be losing her forever (at least, according to this movie's interpretation) cut through his armor. Still, although he believed he had now understood that happiness and pain are inextricably linked in love, his faith was again profoundly shaken by her death, giving birth to of his most personal works, "A Grief Observed."
Magnificently framed by its Oxford University background and featuring a tremendous cast, from the two leads to Edward Hardwicke (Warren Lewis), Joseph Mazzello (Douglas Gresham) and top-tier actors even in minor roles (to name but a few, Julian Fellowes, Michael Denison, Peter Howell, Julian Firth and Peter Firth), "Shadowlands" received Oscar nominations for Debra Winger and William Nicholson's screenplay (Anthony Hopkins was only nominated for "The Remains of the Day"), but in a year that also saw strong competition from "Philadelphia," "Age of Innocence," "Short Cuts" etc., ultimately lost out to "Schindler's List" and "The Piano" (Holly Hunter). Nevertheless, this is a powerful testimony to the love between two truly unusual individuals; one of Oxford-s pre-eminent scholars and the woman who was to him, as he wrote in her epitaph, "the whole world ... reflected in a single mind."
on October 15, 2003
This review refers to the DVD(HBO) edtion of "Shadowlands"...
With every viewing of this touching and true romance, I become more appreciative of what a fine film this is. Had I written a review after the first time I watched it, I probably would have gone 4 stars. The first time around, I really got to know C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham thanks to the deep and moving performances of Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. After that it was joy spending more time with them, really getting to know their story, and taking in the magnificent work of Director Richard Attenborough and the photography of Roger Pratt.
The story is a bittersweet tale of a mid-life romance that is all to short. C.S. Lewis, the famous writer of children's stories, lives the quiet life of a proper gentleman. He's a professor at Oxford,devout Christian,set in his ways, never married and is repsected by all that know him.When Joy Gresham a divorced, Jewish, Communist, brash New Yorker, with a young son enters his world,things as he knows them are about to change.They develop a friendship and soon she starts to melt the icy wall he has built up around his perfect world. To the shock of all those that know him well, Lewis finally lets his emotions be a part of his life. It is only when Joy becomes terminally ill with cancer, that he realizes the full depth of his love for this woman and her son, and must learn to deal with the pain as well.
I can't think of anyone else who could be C.S. Lewis. Hopkins is a virtuoso. One look at his eyes and we know the depth of his feelings. Winger is an impressive of a match for him as Gresham was for Lewis. She knows how to grab your heart and keep it("Terms of Endearment"). I must also mention the talented young Joseph Mazzello who turns in a remarkable performance as Douglas, Joy's son. William Nicholson has turned his stageplay into a beautiful screenplay, and the music by George Fenton flows with the story.
The DVD is a nice presentation in widescreen, that takes in the splendor of the scenery and sights of England. The tech info here states that the sound is in Dolby Dig 5.1. It is not.(This appears to be the only edtion) The sound is in DD2.0 Surround, and although the dialouge is a little low, the surround sound is very good. Special features include a "Behind the Scenes Featurette" and excerpts of interviews with the stars, the filmmakers and a now grown Douglas Gresham.
The story is a true love story.Five Stars for one that reminds us that to love and to be loved is worth the price of the pain it sometimes brings......enjoy....Laurie
on August 29, 2003
A shamelessly tear-jerking soap opera from that paragon of conventionality, Richard Attenborough. *Shadowlands* will seem a lot better to those who don't know much about C.S. Lewis, but for those who know something of his life and writings, it will seem inadequate. It's really almost inexcusable that a movie about this famous intellectual, children's novelist, and Christian apologist is so devoid of intellect, so devoid of the ideas that made this figure unique in 20th Century letters. (The movie shows Lewis speaking the same tail-end of the same lecture to THREE different audiences. Didn't he have anything else to say?) If you want to make a movie about a nice, quiet, shy old English guy who falls in love with a brassy-voiced American, then do us all a favor and invent the characters out of whole cloth. C.S. Lewis deserves better than this. And it's pretty far removed from what actually occurred in his life. He and his future wife, the American poet Joy Gresham, had known each for years before tying the knot, relating to each other primarily as fellow Christian intellectuals. Here, Attenborough (or the playwright who originally wrote the story) insists on a standard Hollywood "cute-meet": Joy blares out "Anybody here called 'Lewis'?" in a tea-room. But I suppose that we can't expect too much intellectual discourse in a movie designed for the multiplex. Ultimately, one gets the sense that the filmmakers are almost out to get Lewis: that same speech he keeps making has something to do with God wanting us to experience suffering so that we can "grow up". Can you see what's coming? That's right -- cancer for his new lady-love. Debra Winger is sadly put in the position again where she has to slowly die of incurable cancer, as in *Terms of Endearment*. As for Anthony Hopkins, he -- rather like Robert Duvall -- tends to basically play himself whenever he's trapped in a mediocre script, and he does so here.
on June 3, 2003
This is the story of CS Lewis's life--at least, his later life. Lewis, the brilliant intellectual, the revered Christian apologist, the man who seemed to have answers to everything, was living a calm and adequate life with his brother Warren. All of that changed when an American woman named Joy came along. Suddenly, Lewis (Jack, as he's called) finds he does NOT have the answers, and that there has been something missing from his life all along. This film is a story of the love that Lewis found, lost, and found again.
This movie is well-made, and very accurate as to the period and setting. Anthony Hopkins's performance is stunning--he seems to fit Lewis perfectly. I have always had a picture in my mind of how Lewis would look and behave, and Hopkins comes about as close to my mental image as is reasonably possible.
That having been said, Debra Winger's acting is absolutely horrid. Her accent is bad, her mannerisms are annoying, and she is simply not convincing in her role as Lewis's love. Also, I did not like that the movie ignored such great friends of Lewis's as Owen Barfield and JRR Tolkien (even if these men played a less significant part in his later life).
I would have liked to see these men, as well as others, in the movie, but was disappointed. Despite these shortcomings, however, Shadowlands is a pretty good representation of Lewis's life, and you can't beat Hopkins's brilliant acting when he plays the Oxford fellow. If you're a CS Lewis fan, this movie is worth seeing.
on January 6, 2003
The sheer beauty of this film is stunning. Scenes of Oxford and its magnificent medieval buildings are breathtaking. The famed splendor of the English countryside beguiles. Add to this the spectacular performance of Sir Anthony Hopkins playing revered author/philosopher C.S. Lewis, and you have a stellar movie.
Shadowlands is set in the early '50s when Lewis was a middle-aged bachelor. All is well in his world. He is a huge success as an author, teacher and speaker. His life is well ordered to the point of being hum drum, and it is exactly the way he likes it. He meets an American, Joy Gresham (excellently played by Debra Winger) who turns his life upside down. Probably for the first time in his life, he does something really foolish. He marries Joy to give her "green card" status. The marriage is supposed to be "only technical." He lives in Oxford, she in London. Joy becomes ill, and Lewis realizes the depth of his feeling for her. Only when she has received a death sentence, does he fully and reluctantly give himself over to his love for her. When he loses her, his grief and pain devastate him to the point where he actually loses his faith. Joy has tried to prepare him, "We can't have the happiness of yesterday without the pain of today. That's the deal." but nothing in Lewis's life has readied him for it.
Yes, "Shadowlands" is a two-hankie affair, but not in the usual sense. It is a path and a journey and a reawakening. Hopkins is so powerful in his role that the viewer sees Lewis as multi-faceted: a shy man, almost naïve in many areas, detached but armored with huge intelligence and cosmopolitan skills. Debra Winger plays off him with a wonderful chemistry. (I had to wince at her perfect '50s wardrobe. It was impeccably "right" in authenticity, but so terribly unbecoming!) I also much admired Edward Hardwicke who played Lewis' s brother Warnie. His warmth and genuine kindness set off Hopkins's detachment and shyness. Richard Attenborough made "Shadowlands" a seamless experience.
The DVD pkg. was good, particularly liked the behind-the-scenes feature. The picture was sharp and clear. My only complaint was the sound. The dialogue was frequently hard to understand.
on December 30, 2002
I finished 'Shadowlands' with puffy eyes and sniffles, but also with warm feelings in my heart.
The movie covered a period of C.S. Lewis' life when he met Joy Gresham, an American writer who visited him in Oxford and how he had to face grief and challenges to what he had believed in. It is truly a powerful movie with great performances by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. Somebody posted below that Sir Anthony Hopkins conveyed a lot through his eyes, and it is true just by watching this movie - just by looking at his portrayal of C.S. Lewis when he was with Joy Gresham, you can sense love and affection that is contained within the rigidity of his manner - and the anguish and hurt when the tragedy happened.
The movie also poses a lot of good questions about life, without being preachy and it has certainly provided me with a lot of food for thoughts.
A must-see movie. Don't let the 'tragic' flavour deter you from watching 'Shadowlands', though. It doesn't leave you in sadness, it leaves you feeling enriched.
on September 29, 2002
SHADOWLANDS is a film that is based on the love story between C.S. Lewis and Joy Gresham. The movie is beautifully photographed, is acted superbly, and has some wonderful dialogue. The oral wit of Lewis is captured in almost every scene and Anothony Hopkins gives one of the most realistic and moving performances of his career. Richard Attenborough's direction is nearly flawless and SHADOWLANDS sinks any notion that Attenborough was a one-film wonder director (GHANDI).
I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis and enjoyed the film immensely. Non-Christian friends of mine have been moved to tears while watching the film because not only does it capture the essence of true love, but because it is a true story. C.S. Lewis was set to be a lifelong bachelor until he met Joy Gresham. They were in many ways opposites (e.g. nationality, heritage, lifestyle, etc.) and it would seem inconceivable that the two should fall in love. But they did. It was as though God used Lewis and Joy to illustrate His love for us.
There were only two parts of the movie that I disliked. I found Debra Winger's performance to be irritating and annoying. There were scenes where she shined and captured the real Joy. However, for most of the film, Winger's Joy seemed fake and unnatural.
The other thing I didn't like about the movie is that they cut out one of the Gresham boys. Joy had two boys, not one and the movie acts as though one of the two brothers didn't even exist. It's simpler to tell a story that way, but not necessarily best.
Overall, a wonderful film about two very real people who had an amazing love story. It's a film sure to raise emotion, perhaps bring a tear to one's eye and it makes a great date movie.