Iris [2001/I]

Iris teems with fussy charm and the intimate joy found only in a lover's foibles. Adapted from the memoirs of literary critic John Bayley, the film recounts his courtship of and long marriage to British novelist Iris Murdoch. The scenario tacks back and forth from the young Iris (Kate Winslet)--ready to seduce one and all with her coy command of words and sex appeal--to the elder Iris (Judi Dench)--slowly giving way to the cruel erasure of Alzheimer's--and it is impossible not to be moved by the film's denouement of loss. Ms. Dench is, as usual, resplendent, tossing off literary quips, knowing glares, and razor-sharp metaphors with graceful ease. The pleasure Murdoch took in what must have been an extraordinary life is palpable every second Dench is onscreen. Jim Broadbent is also especially fine as the elder Bayley, steadfast in devotion and humor. The script, however, is painfully predictable and heavy-handed in its frequent use of symbolism (e.g., sheets of paper flying into the ocean, rocks slipping to the river's bottom). Nevertheless, Iris evokes a passion for learning and intimacy worthy of its subject. --Fionn Meade

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