This is a difficult and painful movie for me to watch, as my own wife died some years ago in almost identical circumstances as Joy Gresham's, but I seem nevertheless drawn to it like a moth to flame. Like the scene in the attic near the movie's end, tears can be immensely therapeutic at times, and if any film ever deserved the label "tearjerker", this one does! Flawless performances by Debra Winger and Anthony Hopkins, and paced so as to best appreciate them. You rarely come across acting this good, and I guarantee you'll never see better. Even after four watchings, I know I have not seen "Shadowlands" for the last time.
I am amazed this move is not more easily available, or in a better format. I bought the Korean "all regions" import, which is better than nothing, but the resolution leaves something to be desired, and there are zero Extra Features to the DVD. But those are mere quibbles. "Shadowlands" is a fine example of that all too rarely found "flawless movie" - not a line, not a gesture, not a scene out of place or that could be improved. Ranks with Yasujiro Ozu's "Late Spring", Grigoriy Chukhray's "Ballad of a Soldier" , or "The Swimmer" with Burt Lancaster as sheer, utter, complete perfection.
This very underrated movie, which is somewhat based on real events in C.S. Lewis' life (the noted theologian that also wrote the Narnia books), is a real gem. After reading my description below, you'll probably think "this is NOT a feel good movie" and in a way you'd be right - but it is a movie that you will likely not regret seeing one bit and will be glad for the experience.
A tearjearker love story (I have found it is impossible for me not to cry in this movie even when I tell myself I won't) that is wonderfully acted by Anthony Hopkins (his best work IMHO), this movie is great because it forces us all to deal with the real issues of life that we all really need to deal with and come to grips with but we really don't want to. Things such as pain, hurt, death, afterlife, and what we really believe. It shows us that it's one thing to declare something as head-knowledge, but when that head-knowledge gets tested in our own personal real-life experiences (i.e. pain) - well, that's where the rubber meets the road.
I did find it striking that in the movie they merely seemed to just "accept" the circumstances thrust upon them without even really trying to exercise faith for healing, etc. As someone who has personally witnessed a person (my mom) who was given a serious terminal diagnosis that chose to fight in faith and believe God for healing, defy the doctors and their "diagnosis", I really can't help but wonder what might have happened if they had taken a different approach. There is an interaction between faith and healing - you can see it in the vast majority of healings that Jesus performed in the Gospels. I'm a very very long way from being convinced that every bad thing that happens to us is God's will for us to just accept and submit to, which is an undercurrent to this movie.
Nevertheless, this movie is still worthwhile for forcing us to consider the reality of our faith in a clear and straightforward way, especially since there will come a time when we all must leave this world. It does help when watching this movie (because of where they leave the viewer) if you know a bit of the backstory in that after the events depicted, Lewis went on to document his feelings in a unique work ("A Grief Observed") - his faith was strengthened at the end of the day, and that his stepson who is still alive is a fellow believer in Christ and as far as I know really now has the hope which he stated he wished for at the end of the movie.
Anyone who has ever loved, and lost, will instantly be able to identify with this movie and the emotions involved. Yes, you can tell from my description that this is a "sad movie" - but it's sad in a good way. Though we frequently try to avoid, we all need to live in reality and address the hard questions of life head on. This movie forces that hand in a very poignant way with an excellent, moving story that is well-acted. I highly recommend it. If you walk away from this movie questioning your faith, that's okay as long as it leads you to look deeper and go deeper with Jesus - just as Lewis did. As believers, we NEED to not only know what we believe, but why we believe it on a deep level.
A note about the DVD versions: I have both the U.S. and UK versions. The U.S. version (out of print) isn't very good because it is non-anamorphic and thus the picture looks extra small on modern HDTV's (it's much better on old-style sets). Widescreen + Non-anamorphic = bad news for modern HDTV's. The UK version is anamorphic and thus solves this problem but as a R2 DVD will only play on Region 2 or multi-region/region free players. Note that some R1 (U.S.) players can be made multi-region by entering a special code on your remote - search the net for your DVD model to see if one exists for yours.
I really hope this film comes out on Blu-ray, though I suspect I may be waiting awhile.
Reviewed by MoviesForChristians laughandlift dot com/moviesforchristians
Great film! Great acting by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger. I'm not sure the film adequately represented Lewis' core Christianity, however I wept buckets while watching. (Also, Lewis' was not a prig. He was the kind of man who would bring bottles of beer to hobos, and drink with them. Yes, he was a great intellect, but his earthiness was not represented well. His writings on Christianity are so vivid because he was in touch with life.)
This movie is excellent. Anthony Hopkins - a brilliant actor by any measure - and Debra Winger do a masterful job at acting in this depiction of C.S. Lewis's, late in life marriage and experience with love and loss. But the movie also explores the deep questions of faith C.S. Lewis endured during this difficult time in his life which is a great lesson for any person of faith who has experienced doubt - which all honest person's of faith will admit has happened in their faith journey at one time or another. C.S. Lewis wrote a book about this experience called "Surprised by Joy" which explores more deeply this time in his life and the topic of faith and suffering.
This movie ranks in my top 5 favorite movies of all time and, for the life of me, I can't give a reasonable explanation as to why that is. Every time I watch it my heart is enveloped in an emotional ache bringing me to a place of woundedness beyond tears and then final, joyous wonderment that, yes, such earthly love does exist, but few there are who are lucky enough to find it and cherish it. C.S. Lewis was 'surprised by Joy' and so are we.
This is one of my favorite love stories, that deals head on with the realities of a marriage. It is a well told story, with great acting by all those invovled. If you are ready to be entertained and yet challenged at the same time, you will surely enjoy this movie. From laughter to tears, this movie may just capture your heart.