Iris: Story of Human Struggle Lacks Uplift
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- 2002 18 Feb
Iris - R
Best for: Mature adults interested in an account of the author's life.
What it's about: Iris tells the story of Iris Murdoch (Judi Dench), a well-respected philosopher and author of 26 novels. The story takes place in the present as she starts to forget things. Her longtime husband, John Bayley (Jim Broadbent), attributes her forgetfulness to old age, but as her condition deteriorates and medical tests are done, the prospect of Iris getting better grows grim. With the aid of Iris' lifelong friend, Janet Stone (Penelope Wilton), John tries to comfort Iris and begins to recollect their early days together at Oxford in the 1950s. The movie then switches back and forth, giving us a reflective perspective of the youthful Iris' (Kate Winslet) beauty, brains, free-spirited nature and sexual freeness (implied bisexuality and affairs) and the older Iris, as John continues to care for his wife of 40 years during her struggle with Alzheimer's disease.
The good: Dame Dench is (as always) remarkable and she and Broadbent are believable as husband and wife. Great acting -- depressing story. The best part of this movie is the touching and profound way this husband loves, cares-for and is frustrated by his wife's Alzheimer's disease. If you're into that kind of story, you'll enjoy the movie.
The not-so-good: Unfortunately, I found Iris to be a sad and pitiful character, and the story of her life to be rather boring. The earlier years clearly show her wilder, carefree and artistic side, but in the path of that unaccountable behavior lays the wreck and ruin of lives, souls and almost her marriage. I guess that might be reason enough to see this movie: to learn from the characters' mistakes. But watching a story about a woman claiming her independence by doing as she pleases sexually and playing mind games on her peers and poor boyfriend loses its appeal after a while. The nudity, sexual behavior, adult issues and Alzheimer's disease . . . well, there are better movies out there to spend your time and money on.
Offensive language and behavior:A few uses of the "F"-word. Scenes of college bars with lots of drinking, skinny-dipping and edgy behavior for the 1950s time period. Old Iris wanders outside and gets lost, and in one scene she freaks while riding in a car with John.
Sexual situations: This is one of those movies that has a lot of nudity in it, but it's not necessarily sexual. We see young Iris and John skinny-dipping, and we briefly see their nude behinds, as well as various shots of Iris nude both in and out of the water. Several bare rears and breasts are shown, and we also see the young Iris' bare breasts as she has sex. Iris also briefly kisses another woman, and it's implied that she's bisexual. Old Janet helps give old Iris a shower, and we briefly see Janet's bare breasts.
Violence:John occasionally exhibits bad attitudes toward Iris and her senility, based more on his frustration with the situation rather than with her.
Parental advisory: This is definitely a movie for adults only.
Bottom line: This is a sad and depressing movie. God and faith are absent from the famous author's life, and therefore, when the illness sets in and times get tough, the film offers no hope or peace. In fact, Murdoch states, "We must believe in something without the need for God."