By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 02, 2002 at 5:45 AM

Some critics have complained that "Iris," a new film that chronicles the last years of the life of author Iris Murdoch, doesn't celebrate her life so much as mourn her death. This, apparently, isn't acceptable fodder for a film when only one of Murdoch's works has been filmed for the big screen.

But, despite that sort of talk, "Iris," which stars Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent ("Moulin Rouge," "Bridget Jones' Diary," "Topsy-Turvy") -- all of whom have been nominated for Academy Awards for their performances in this powerful film -- is a heart-wrenching story of a brilliant woman's battle with the encroaching darkness of Alzheimer's Disease and it is a story that will strike anyone who has come into contact with this dreadful illness.

Directed by Richard Eyre ("King Lear") and written by Eyre and Charles Wood based on two memoirs written by Murdoch's husband, literary critic John Bayley, "Iris" is a touching film and one that is deserving of the Oscar recognition it is getting.


The fun-loving and lively Murdoch has just written her first novel and has secured a publishing deal when she meets the timid and retiring Bayley. Despite, of perhaps because of, their polar-opposite personalities, the two become lifetime companions and Murdoch's career as one of the greatest voices in modern literature is solidified with each new work.

But by the 1990s, Murdoch's memory is failing her and what seems at first just to be a nuisance, quickly grows into debilitating Alzheimer's and the aging Bayley -- who was apparently never that great at taking care of himself -- struggles to care for Iris as he is conflicted by memories of the past and lucid visions of the present.

Dench and Winslet are paired up as the older and younger Murdoch, respectively, and each is brilliant. Bayley the younger is played by Hugh Bonneville ("Notting Hill," "Blow Dry") and Broadbent takes over as the older Bayley. Again, the two men do a brilliant job of combining to paint a unified picture of a dedicated husband.

For the record, Iris Murdoch wrote 26 novels and won the prestigious Booker Prize in Britain in 1978 for her novel "The Sea The Sea." But, you don't need to know any of that to appreciate the poignant film that bears her name.

"Iris" opened at Landmark's Oriental Theatre on Fri., March 1. Click here for showtimes.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.