directed by Richard Attenborough
(Savoy, 1993)

Shadowlands is based on the true story of author C.S. Lewis and his romance and marriage with American Joy Gresham. It is set in 1952 at the University of England, where Lewis was teaching.

Some critics have faulted the movie for the way Lewis is portrayed, citing inaccuracies in everything from his theories to the way the actor failed to portray his speaking habits. I am not familiar enough with Lewis's life to pick apart the details that are incorrect. I must judge the movie on the criteria that I would use for any work of fiction. The plot flowed smoothly. The story progressed chronologically. It came to a proper closure. It was a technically sound movie. There were a couple of lulls in the story. I found them great for grabbing a cup of coffee. Perhaps the director thought he would work an intermission into the script.

Anthony Hopkins plays a great C.S. Lewis. He is intellectually stimulating, well spoken, a splendid teacher and an interestingly quirky writer. He is eccentric enough to be believable. He also seems dual-natured -- he could be so intelligent about academic things, yet so totally stupid about the basics of life and love. He could be so warm and charming, yet cold and aloof.

Hopkins does a marvelous job of playing out these dualities, making the viewer believe he is terribly confused inside, experiencing an extreme amount of bewilderment with life and fighting to gain some type of control and understanding over this turmoil. As the staunch and stoic Englishmen, he is precious.

Debra Winger is wonderful as Joy Gresham. I could feel her emotions throughout the movie. I laughed with her and cried for her. She takes the out-spoken American woman persona toe-to-toe with the bloody formal Englishman and she walks away the winner.

My favorite line from the whole movie will remain with me forever. When a snooty, gossipy professor is giving her grief, she responds, "Professor Riley, are you trying to be offensive, or just exceptionally stupid?" That catty tort, combined with her stern, straight poker face, stole the show for her. It brought her persona into perfect focus.

I thought it was interesting to observe the growth process of Lewis in this story. He evolves dramatically and becomes almost opposite of what he was in the beginning. But the story is such a heartbreaker! The tragedy of this true-life love story is that once the man realizes what he has in the woman, there is no option in losing her. They no longer have a choice.

Whether the movie is an accurate portrayal of C.S. Lewis or not, it is still a wonderful movie that tugs at your heart strings and makes you question why life can be so unfair. I will watch it again and recommend that you do, too.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 1 February 2003

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