Shadowlands (1985)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

This motion picture superbly chronicles the profound but painful love shared by British author C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) and American poet Joy Davidman Gresham. While documenting an important period in the life of the esteemed Lewis -- a novelist, teacher, philosopher, and devout convert from atheism to Christianity -- the film also explores the painful happiness of falling in love late in life, when new risks both terrorize and tantalize. William Nicholson's script sparkles with gentle wit. For example, after Lewis secretly marries Gresham in a civil ceremony in 1955 solely to qualify her for British citizenship, she observes that wagging tongues say they are unmarried and committing sin when they are really married and remaining chaste. Josh Ackland and Claire Bloom perform brilliantly as the enamored couple, projecting the quiet passion -- and compassion -- that Lewis and Gresham have for each other after she develops cancer and they marry in a religious ceremony in 1957, when Lewis is nearing 60. Other excellent performances abound, including that of David Waller as Lewis' brother, Warnie, and those of Rupert Baderman and Rhys Hopkins as Gresham's children. Throughout the film, the script deftly probes the meaning of love, suffering, and life itself while eschewing melodrama and sentimentality. The film's ending is optimistic, suggesting that the "shadowlands" of the material world are only a poor reflection of the glittering world beyond death.