(dir. Richard Attenborough) (1993)
“We read to know we are not alone”…so we appreciate the intellectual tug of love between lonely but accomplished Clive Staples (Jack) Lewis of Magdalen College, Oxford and lonely precocious poet Joy Gresham (“the Jewish Christian Communist American”) in this simple, sad and beautiful film, easily Attenborough’s best (and a lot shorter than his Oscar acceptance speech for Gandhi, or so it seems).
‘the pain now is part of the happiness then.’
William Nicholson adapted his earlier TV and film scripts with additions based in part on the lovely book by Joy’s son, Douglas (“Lenten Lands”) and the script is wondrous – tasteful, literate and loving, shot with a superb feel for 1950s England, and Oxford in particular; unbearable closing moments convince because all before has rung hard and true as a broken femur. They “live in the shadowlands…the sun is always shining somewhere else…around a bend in the road; over the brow of a hill.”
It features golden performances, in particular by Anthony Hopkins as Lewis, Debra Winger as Joy, Edward Hardwicke as Warnie, Joseph Mazzello as Douglas, all in supporting roles peerless. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s our kind of happiness. And by the way, it is ‘two gins and tonic’, not ‘two gin-and-tonics’….
Magdalene College in the shadows