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Shadowlands (1993 film)

This article is about the 1993 cinema film. For other uses, see Shadowlands (disambiguation).

File:Shadowlands ver2.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Attenborough
Produced by Richard Attenborough
Brian Eastman
Written by William Nicholson
Starring Anthony Hopkins
Debra Winger
Edward Hardwicke
Music by George Fenton
Cinematography Roger Pratt
Edited by Lesley Walker
Distributed by Savoy Pictures (US)
Paramount Pictures (UK)
Release dates
  • 25 December 1993 (1993-12-25)
Running time
131 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $22 million
Box office $25,842,377

Shadowlands is a 1993 British biographical film about the love-relationship between Oxford academic C. S. Lewis and American poet Joy Davidman, her death from cancer, and how this challenged Lewis' Christian faith. It is directed by Richard Attenborough with a screenplay by William Nicholson based on his 1985 television production and 1989 stage adaptation of the same name. The original television film began life as a script entitled I Call it Joy written for Thames Television by Brian Sibley and Norman Stone. Sibley later wrote the book, Shadowlands: The True Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman.


In the 1950s, the reserved, middle-aged bachelor C. S. Lewis is an Oxford University academic at Magdalen College and author of The Chronicles of Narnia series of children's books. He meets the married American poet Joy Gresham and her young son Douglas on their visit to England, not yet knowing the circumstances of Gresham's troubled marriage.

What begins as a formal meeting of two very different minds slowly develops into a feeling of connection and love. Lewis finds his quiet life with his brother Warnie disrupted by the outspoken, feisty Gresham, whose uninhibited behaviour offers a sharp contrast to the rigid sensibilities of the male-dominated university. Each provides the other with new ways of viewing the world.

Initially their marriage is one of convenience, a platonic union designed to allow Gresham to remain in England. But when she is diagnosed with cancer, deeper feelings surface, and Lewis' faith is tested as his wife tries to prepare him for her imminent death.


Critical reception

Shadowlands received positive reviews from critics and maintains a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "intelligent, moving and beautifully acted."[1]

Rita Kempley of the Washington Post described it as "a high-class tear-jerker" and a "literate hankie sopper" and added, "William Nicholson's screenplay brims with substance and wit, though it's essentially a soap opera with a Rhodes scholarship . . . [Winger] and Hopkins lend great tenderness and dignity to what is really a rather corny tale of a love that was meant to be."[2]

In Variety, Emanuel Levy observed, "It's a testament to the nuanced writing of William Nicholson ... that the drama works effectively on both personal and collective levels ... Attenborough opts for modest, unobtrusive direction that serves the material and actors ... Hopkins adds another laurel to his recent achievements. As always, there's music in his speech and nothing is over-deliberate or forced about his acting ... Coming off years of desultory and unimpressive movies, Winger at last plays a role worthy of her talent."[3]

Changes from the stage play or earlier television production

The stage play opens with Lewis giving a talk about the mystery of suffering. This film opens with Lewis giving a radio broadcast about the sanctity of marriage.

In the stage play as in reality, Lewis and Davidman honeymoon in Greece. In the film, on their honeymoon they look for a "Golden Valley" in England, as depicted in a painting hanging in Lewis' study.

As in the stage play, though not the earlier television film, Joy has only one son. In the original television film, as in reality, Joy had two sons, Douglas and David.

Awards and honours


  1. ^ Roger Ebert, "Shadowlands", Chicago Sun-Times.
  2. ^ "‘Shadowlands’ (PG)". Washington Post (7 January 1994).
  3. '^ Weissberg, Jay. (2 December 1993) "Review: 'Shadowlands'". Variety.

External links