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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.
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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.
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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.
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on December 19, 2014
Excellent movie. Anthony Hopkins is superb as C S Lewis and I couldn't imagine anyone else playing Joy Gresham. I had seen this movie years ago but after rereading a couple of Lewis's books, and visiting his home, The Kilns in Oxford, I wanted to see the movie again. It didn't disappoint. You don't have to know anything about Lewis to appreciate this movie!
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on November 16, 2001
For anyone who has ever read "Miracles", or "The Problem of Pain", or "Mere Christianity", etc..., we all know Clive Staples Lewis is a deep man. For whomever takes a minute or two to read this review I cannot impress on you enough the amount of grace that God bestowed on this man. His probing insight into the heart of humanity has never ceased to amaze and astound me. "Shadowlands" gave me a different view of the man whom I consider a saint. His impeccable logic was worthless when it came to the love he felt for Joy. As she died he had to rely completely on his faith...and he was put to the test. His constant prayers for her healing did not change God's plan, "they changed him(C.S.)".
I cried throughout most of this movie...not for Joy, but for the pain my beloved author went through. I am sure Joy had her share of physical pain, but Jack went through the worst. When Love(God) shows up when you least expect it (along the line you have been following), and is suddenly taken away, you are bound to question your faith. The movie does a fine job of portraying that problem in the mind's eye of C.S. Lewis.
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on April 27, 2000
Very few movies have impacted me as this lovely film has. It is a work filled with beauty, honesty, nobility, and reality. Hopkins and Winger are perfectly cast and turn in flawless performances that you will never forget. I cannot overstate the wonderful and powerful chemistry that develops between their characters, nor can I overstate how delightful are the subtleties and nuances that abound in their discovery of each other. And the performances turned in by the rest of the cast are all solid and fit like a good glove. There just are no holes in this movie - it is excellent from the opening credits and never diminishes a whit. Even if your heart is as cold and hard as an Arctic ice floe, I doubt you will be able to watch this and not be moved. Build a fire, take the phone off the hook, dim the lights, and prepare to spend two fabulous hours sharing a magnificent story with those you most care for. If you fall in love with this elegant portrayal as much as I have, you will watch it again and again through the years and always come away feeling enriched and satisfied. What I wouldn't give to see Hollywood would turn out more movies of this caliber!
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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.
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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. Reviewer
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on July 8, 2001
Prerequisites for this film: two hours of uninterupted, quiet time, and a box of tissues.
Those deeply committed to their spouse, or any loved one, will be deeply touched by the absolute torment a man can be driven to by the death of that loved one. Especially hard to deal with is the feeling of helplessness in the heart of a man so formerly, and otherwise powerful and emotionally detached. It leads one to the dangerous place where it seems that the promise of true love threatens to be merely a cruel practical joke perpetrated by a God who, strangley enough calls himself "Love."
The story is touching and moving, and ghastly effective in driving the "cruel" point home. For instance:
There's always background music in a film. But at this point, the scene is silent. Silent for what seems like an eternity, in a room with only a bed visible. On it lays Lewis' wife, while he kneels with his head laying silently on on the side of her bed. Only the clock can be heard ticking, slowly, endlessly. She's dying, and they both know it. And that's the source of the pain.
The dialogue is engaging and heart-breaking at times. Lewis is left to explain to Joy the seriousness of her condition, and when she finds out:
He: "I don't want to lose you..."
She: "I don't want to be lost..."
The movie is so sad because it's so true - and true not just for Lewis fifty some-odd years ago; but true for all of us, by the thousands every day. Every man and wife, every father and son, every mother and daughter knows that this day is coming for us too, and we are all helpless to avoid it, or to stop it when it comes.
This movie's emotional impact will not stop when the credits roll. It will not stop on the way home. It will not stop for DAYS. It's actually been about six years since I viewed the film, and I want to watch it again, but I have been avoiding it because I already know the deep impact it is going to extoll on me in the process. That's how powerful it is.
On a purely pragmatic note, I've never really been a big fan of Deborah Winger, but she comes across nicely in this film, and of course Anthony Hopkins turns in his usual best.
For further reading, two books by Lewis directly address the events in the movie. "A Grief Observed" wherein the author relates his tormented passage through the grief following his wife's death - a journey that takes him to the very edge of his faith in God, and "Suprised By Joy" which chronicles his "recovery" and renewed faith.
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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."
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