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A young, free spirited Iris Murdoch (Kate Winslet) meets young, introverted John Bayley (Hugh Bonneville) at university and they fall in love, after a few anxious moments for John, when rival suitors prowl around Iris. As Iris grows in popularity and fame as a writer and philosopher, their bond deepens. By the time they reach late middle age (Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent) even the devestating Alzheiner’s disease that afflicts Iris cannot diminish their love. But now, it is John who must look after Iris.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Four terrific performances bring two lives to life on the screen in a film that manages to tell more about their lives in 90 minutes than many longer films manage about a single life. Splendid English character acting and understatement are two of the powerful cinematic tools here, with an economical script that charts the physical deterioration of Iris Murdoch, and the spiritual, emotional strengthening of her relationship to John Bayley. It is a sad subject with its descent into dementia at the cruel hands of Alzheimer’s, but is made bearable by the love story that is at its heart. Everything good you hear about this film is true: Judi Dench creates an unforgettable Iris Murdoch; Jim Broadbent is faultless as the shy, stuttering yet robust of spirit John, and the younger versions of them by Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville are seamlessly matched, beautifully portrayed. Flashbacks are used to take us across time in well balanced harmony, that highlight both the past and the present in these lives, and we feel privy to many secrets. This is the film’s great strength, its ability to introduce us to real people, not victims of disease or writers. These lives are no different to millions of others – yet they are, of course, in small but crucial ways. It’s not what happens to you in life, but how you manage it, how you react to it, some wise chap once said, and that is also part of this film’s eloquent equation. Iris is a film of lasting value, and one to enjoy for its profound humanity.

Review by Louise Keller:
While the heartbreaking tragedy of Alzheimer's may be its central theme, Iris is essentially a poignant and beautiful love story. An impenetrable bond of two lives intertwined, we are privy to capturing a glimpse of the intimacy between two extraordinary human beings. Seamlessly structured as the past weaving in and out of the present, we meet Iris and John at the moments of their lives that have crucial personal impact. At the moment of their meeting, we (like John) are enchanted by Iris. She is fearless, adventurous and very much the object of his admiration and desire. She proudly swims naked and when they ride through the countryside on their bicycles, he can never catch up with her. But of course, the impact of her illness changes the balance of their relationship and John does catch up with Iris. And they are very much one. Two halves that make a whole. It's a touching and genuine portrait represented stunningly on the screen with performances that soar among the very best. Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent will break your heart as they inhabit Iris and John, tormented by their demons, locked together by love until love and life is gone. There's love, hate, resentment, rejection; and then, there's total acceptance. You will never forget some of these intimate moments. I won't. The moment of love's final acceptance is such a heartwrenching one, that my tears were rivers down my cheeks. Dench and Broadbent offer such delicacy and sincerity of spirit, creating one of the most touching portraits of a relationship seen on screen for quite some time. But the excellence of performance doesn't stop there. Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville are wonderful as the younger couple; Winslet, a free spirit epitomising the young Iris, with Bonneville outstanding (helped by an amazing likeness to a young Broadbent as we imagine him). Lucid cinematography, detailed production design and a delicate musical score by James Horner with ethereal tones and passages that reflect the imaginary world induced by Alzheimer's. Iris is a special experience.

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CAST: Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville and Kate Winslet

DIRECTOR: Richard Eyre

PRODUCER: Robert Fox, Scott Rudin

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack

SCRIPT: Richard Eyre, Charles Wood (book by John Bayley)


EDITOR: Martin Walsh

MUSIC: James Horner


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 31, 2002


VIDEO RELEASE: September 18, 2002

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