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Her greatest talent was for life 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Iris Murdoch was a brilliant writer and a fascinating person, and Iris makes an elegaic introduction for beginners. The film switches between Iris meeting bumbling university lecturer John Bayley whilst at college at the height of passionate intellectual powers and the latter years when Altzheimers starts taking over and the previously submissive John has to take a more forceful role in taking care of his wife.

The film manages to achieve good continuity in looks with the younger and older representations of both Iris and John, and Judi Dench has a ball in the scenes where she is allowed to display the authors prodigious mental talents. She almost seems more impulsive and rebellious than Kate Winslet's portrayl of the young Iris.

The on-screen chemistry between old hands Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent is a joy to watch, with both taking full advantage of rare leading roles to showcase their unquestionable talents. Their pleasant eccentricities and obvious affection are like manna from heaven in an industry where setting two pretty young things in front of the camera and having them show each other their expensively produced perfect smiles before the body doubles move in is meant to pass for a passionate portrayal of love.

Some may find the character of John Bayley to be too much of a bumlbing fool, but since the film is based on his memoirs this should be taken as self-depreaciating humour. However this lightness of tone in the early parts of the film makes Iris' slow loss of her treasured mental faculties all the more traumatic, and in the end the film is as much a moving piece about the effects of Altzheimers as it is a tribute to a great writer.

David Goody

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Autumn Term (35mm)