I’ve never read anything by Iris Murdoch. Maybe I should. She sounds like she was a fascinating person. Here she is portrayed by Kate Winslet as a young woman, just starting out as a writer, and by Judi Dench as a woman rapidly succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Both of them are great in the roles. Then there is Jim Broadbent, who won the Supporting Actor Oscar for playing her husband, John Bayley, who took it on himself to care for her as her mind came apart and, as sometimes happens, she became fearful and angry and a real pain in the ass. Finally it was too much for him, though, and he put her into a really nice institution. Which I feel is for the best. In the horrible event that I should come down with the Big A, I hope those who love me would not subordinate their lives to my care and feeding. Salt me away in a home, let them give me drugs to calm me down, and set me in a corner somewhere facing a television. I won’t know where the hell I am or who you are, anyway, so what’s the difference? (Other than surviving third-degree burns over 90% of my body, my chief horror is senility. Please, heart attack, stroke, cancer, run over by a truck, hit by a meteorite … anything but Alzheimer’s.)
I should add that the fourth member of the cast, Hugh Bonneville as the young Bayley, is the only one who did not get an Oscar nomination. And I think this was an injustice. Not only did he really nail the part of a stammering, awkward, bookish young man madly in love with a talent far greater than his, he even looked a lot like Jim Broadbent. And one more thing: Kate Winslet seems to have no qualms at all about nude scenes. There are several of them, skinny-dipping and underwater. I respect that, when the scene calls for it, and I thought those scenes enhanced the movie by showing her fearlessness.