Director: Richard Attenborough

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The real test of this film would be: Would any of it be interesting if it was not about C. S. Lewis? Would it work if about Professor Nobody?

In fact this is not a true story as will be discovered by even a superficial perusal of Lyle Dorset's biography of Lewis's wife Joy, & the testimony of Lewis's stepson Douglas, plus the fact that he knew her for a decade (married four) rather than two years total in the film's compression, had two stepsons rather than one, had friendships with equals like J. R. R. Tolkien, G. K. Chesterton & Dorothy Sayers rather than ithe nsignificant jealous professors in the film. The facts of Lewis's life could have resulted in a far better film that was trumped up for Shadowlands.

As a work of historical fiction not assessed as authenticly about Lewis, the first hour or so of this film might be a four-star winner, about a dufus Oxford don whose friends rib him mercilessly about writing children's books when he's never known a child. He's the butt of their jealous humor, though he's potentially more intelligent than they are. Hopkins instantly overcomes his Hannible the Cannibal kitsch acting fame to create a nifty fictional character.

But half to two-thirds of the way through, the synoptic love story & dealing-with-death themes rendered the film was twaddlingly sentimental. Debra Winger's uneven performance may have been less than Hopkins's because he is a one-man-performer who doesn't act as well in tandems.

The "crying" scene with the boy left me cold, though I weep over sad scenes in most movies quite easily. Lewis is not shown interacting with the boy in any other important scene & all his crying-jag in the boy's presence reveals is that his own feelings still matter more than the boy's.

The assortment of odd characters who populate the first & better half of the film never get their relationships to Lewis developed in any interesting way & become less important to that less effective second half of the film. An essentially boring ending left me disliking the whole thing, even though it started off good enough it seemed like it might have made a better-than-average Masterpiece Theater piece.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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