Review of film 'Shadowlands'

Authored By: Lewis Kapell


I highly recommend the new film Shadowlands to everyone. For those who have seen the original BBC version, it is disappointing in some ways, since much of the insightful religious dialogue was removed. In other respects, however, it is better. I have not seen the stage play and cannot compare it.

For those unfamiliar with the story:

Shadowlands is the true story of the relationship between C. S. Lewis - Englishman, English literature scholar, convert to Christianity (Church of England), and popular author of Christian books as well as the children's series The Chronicles of Narnia - and Joy Davidman, an American, born a secularized Jew, later a Communist and then a convert to Christianity. The story begins in 1952 when Lewis has reached fame for his writings. Davidman writes him fan-mail and a correspondence begins. She comes to England and meets him, and they strike up a friendship. Lewis, a long-time bachelor and somewhat emotionally distant person, becomes attached to her and is slowly drawn out of himself. Then ...

Well, I hate to spoil the ending for those who don't know it. The film is rated PG, though probably too serious for children.

Lewis is played by the now well-known actor Anthony Hopkins. He does not look like Lewis as much as Joss Ackland (who starred in the BBC film), and is much more soft-spoken, but effectively conveys the sense of a great personality. He also displays Lewis' emotional progression effectively, which was lacking in the original. Debra Winger is much closer to the real Joy than Claire Bloom was in the BBC version. She uses a Jewish-American accent (albeit a bit inconsistently, I think) and conveys her rough-edged, independent personality, which Bloom hardly did.

The film was shot entirely in England, much of it on location. Photography, casting, etc. are all first-rate. The screenplay by William Nicholson - author of the original - is insightful and avoids the cliches of most contemporary dramatic scripts. It is faithful to the real events in substance, apart from a few odd changes such as the elimination of one of Joy's two children.

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