Spiritually Significant Film

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Shadowlands (1985, 1993)

Original capsule review (of the Attenborough feature film) by Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films)

For much of his adult life, scholar and writer C.S. Lewis (“Jack” to his friends) was a celebrated and accomplished Christian apologist, unapologetically defending such unfashionably traditional Christian beliefs as the reality of miracles, the resurrection, and hell in the twin arenas of academia and popular opinion. Among his works was a treatise on The Problem of Pain, a work of “theodicy” (i.e., an attempt to explain how evil can exist in a world created and ruled by an all-good and all-powerful God). Although he professed himself a coward with no illusions of fortitude, Lewis proclaimed the difficult truth that God uses even pain for our own benefit — that He “whispers to us in our pleasures but shouts in our pains.”

These words came back to haunt Lewis toward the end of his life, when, having first unexpectedly found love with an American divorceé named Helen Joy Gresham, whom he married, Lewis was shattered by her death from cancer. The journal he kept during these dark days, A Grief Observed, reveals a soul suffering through the process that Lewis had written about so glibly (though not without appropriate fear and trembling).

Anthony Hopkins plays “Jack” as a somewhat abstracted ivory-tower academic rather than the robust and jovial figure he actually was. But Lewis’ penetrating intellect and faith are here, as is his love for Joy (Winger), and the crippling grief that came afterwards. A challenging and inspiring film.

Capsule Review by Matt Page

While Hopkins's version of this story is the more well known, it is the BBC's version that really gets under the skin of C.S. Lewis. Joss Ackland's touching portrayal of a man whose life and faith is shattered by his wife's death won many plaudits, but it's the way that the film ends on a note of hope that sticks in the memory. While the film is honest enough to take an honest loook at grief and death, it also knows that there is still something bigger.

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Directed by Mike Leigh, Richard Attenborough
Primary language(s): English