SHADOWLANDS presents the challenging story of the brief and emotionally turbulent marriage of Christian author/scholar C.S. Lewis to American poet Joy Gresham. With outstanding (and understated) performances by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, an intelligent script and gorgeous cinematography, this film presents an eloquent portrait of sacrificial love--indeed, of the emotions of love growing from selfless acts of love. Only an unfortunate failure to depict the resolution of a crisis of faith which naturally followed Lewis' tragic loss of his wife prevents this film from being a masterpiece on the order of CHARIOTS OF FIRE.
The Christian author C.S. Lewis’ tragic relationship with Joy Gresham is presented with great dignity in the movie SHADOWLANDS. Anthony Hopkins portrays Professor Lewis at Oxford. One day, he meets Joy Gresham (Debra Winger), an American poet touring England with her son. Mrs. Gresham wants to settle in London, and Lewis helps her by marrying her in a civil ceremony, thus giving her English citizenship, but then living apart. One day, Mrs. Lewis lands in the hospital with a bone tumor. Lewis assumes responsibility for her care and falls in love. In a moving scene, he brings a minister to her bedside to repeat their marriage ceremony with vows promised to God. The Lewises enjoy a satisfying but brief time together. Regrettably, in grappling with Lewis’ loss, SHADOWLANDS drops the ball. Unless one knew better, the final impression is that Lewis never regained a viable faith after Joy’s death.
This conclusion will be a sore spot for Lewis’ admirers and a great loss for the general public because we so rarely see intelligent portrayals of faith in contemporary films. Lewis, to be sure, did not become an agnostic in the face of this tragedy. Even so, SHADOWLANDS is well worth a visit, but had this film done as much justice to Lewis’ faith as it does to his humanity, it would have been a masterpiece not just a superb and moving love story.
(B, C, M) Positive presentation of mature & sacrificial love in a married couple; however, the theme of loss of loved ones may be upsetting to children.