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Remembering "Iris"

Posted at 9:17 PM on March 16, 2008 by Euan Kerr

It's hard not to compare "Iris," the story of British writer Iris Murdoch's struggle with Alzheimers disease with "Away from Her" which netted Julie Christie an Oscar nomination.

But the comparison doesn't take long, and "Iris" easily comes out on top. It helps to have Dame Judy Dench in the lead role along with the incomparable Jim Broadbent who got the best supporting actor Oscar in 2001 for his portrayal of Murdoch's husband John Bayley. It also helps to have Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville playing the characters as they were in college.

The film is based on Bayley's memoir and bears a human touch both in its tenderness, and its brutality.

"Away from Her" is based on the short story "The Bear Came over the Mountain" by Alice Munroe. The film is lyrically beautiful in places, and Christie is good as an active academic who chooses to go into a long-term care facility when she learns she has the disease. There is also a remarkable performance by Gordon Pinsent as the college professor who tries to remain engaged in the life of his once brilliant wife. Yet it doesn't ring true for some reason, perhaps because of the somewhat strange ways the staff in the care facility treat their patient's visitors.


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