You may wonder why a low budget film that no one has seen received Oscar nominations for three of its four actors (Jim Broadbent, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet). But Iris is an amazing film and the fourth actor should have been nominated as well. The four actors play only two characters between them, the novelist Iris Murdoch (Winslet, Dench) and her husband, John Bayley (Broadbent, Hugh Bonneville). This is yet another true story brought to the screen all too soon since Bayley is still alive and Murdoch died only 3 years ago. Iris is very romantic and very scary, involving as it does a love story between two very intelligent people, one of whom dies of Alzheimer's. The film interweaves the story of the young Bayley and Murdoch as they meet and fall in love, with the story of the end of their lives when Murdoch contracts Alzheimer's and her husband struggles to take care of her.
The four actors deserve Oscars just for making us believe that, unlike in most such films, Dench/Winslet and Broadbent/Bonneville could be the same people seen 40 years apart. In particular, the resemblance between Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville is uncanny. Bonneville seems to have been denied his nomination only because he is less of a household name than Dame Judi (previously nominated for Mrs. Brown and Chocolat, and won for Shakespeare in Love), Winslet (previously nominated for Sense and Sensibility and Titanic) and Broadbent who starred this year in Moulin Rouge and Bridget Jones's Diary as well as Iris. This year, Broadbent was the only winner of the group, taking home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
This film is a joy to watch.
The direction and editing of the stories of the young and old couples is
immaculate. Somehow, the inclusion of the earlier love story, makes
the later story easier to accept. Iris Murdoch's descent into Alzheimer's
is heart wrenching as we watch her husband being dragged down with her.
But he seems to have recovered himself since her death in 1999 as this
story in The
Guardian reveals. Now that I have seen Jim Broadbent in three
very different roles in one year, I can appreciate his abilities as a character
actor. As was said in an interview I saw with Broadbent, if you are
a character actor, you just have to wait until you are 35 years old and
then you will work forever. Dench does her usual good job in a strong
female role which is all in a day's work for someone who has already played
Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth I. Winslet is excellent and she
and Bonneville have a great chemistry as the young couple. Not much
is left to the imagination in Iris. All I can say is that I'm
happy that the skinny dipping is left to the younger couple and the older
couple wears swimming costumes. If Iris opens in a theatre
where you live, it probably won't stay long so get right out and see it.