"Does our suffering mean anything?" It is life's most pressing question. If you have ever pondered it you must see Shadowlands. 
ShadowlandsCSJoy.jpg (5646 bytes)
C. S. Lewis: Anthony Hopkins, Joy Gresham: Debra Winger, Warnie Lewis: Edward Hardwicke, Prof. Riley: John Wood. Directed by Richard Attenborough. Written by William Nicholson, based on his play. Running time: 125 minutes. Rated PG.

Photo © Shadowlands Productions. All rights reserved.

Review by
John Schuurman

Pastor Wheaton Christian Reformed Church and family man, (one church, one wife, two kids).  Born and reared in Denver, Colorado.  Life-long Bronco fan.   Education: A.B. English/Speech/Education M.A. Theater Arts M.Div Biblical Studies Career experience: High school teacher, Actor/director for legitimate theater, raconteur. 
John Schuurman


    "Does our suffering mean anything?" It is life's most pressing question. If you have ever pondered it you must see Shadowlands. Released in 1993 and directed by Richard Attenborough, Shadowlands features astonishing performances by Anthony Hopkins and Debora Winger and is the true story of C.S. Lewis and H. Joy Davidman Gresham. With reasonable, (for Hollywood), accuracy, and unusual, (for Hollywood), sensitivity to Christian issues, "Shadowlands" tells of Lewis and Gersham's love, happiness and suffering. But it majors on Lewis' life-long search for the answer to THE QUESTION: "Does pain, (and therefore -- LIFE), make sense?"

     The story is simple enough and one gives nothing away by telling the details. Lewis, the celebrated Oxford don, Christian apologist, children's author, and emotionally detached bachelor, meets Gresham, American divorcee, poetess, mother, reader. She comes to England as a fan, seeking out the admired author. He is intrigued by the bright and brash American. They become friends and they have a "technical" marriage before a judge to satisfy some immigration difficulties for her. But she becomes ill with cancer and Lewis, realizing his love for her, marries her again, this time in a religious ceremony. They enjoy a couple of years of happiness and then she dies.

     Before he has to suffer her loss, Lewis frequently lectures and writes about suffering.
"Why? [do we suffer?] Isn't God supposed to be good? ... I'm not so sure God wants us to be happy. He wants us to love and be loved. He wants us to grow up. Suffering is his gift .... Suffering is the something that drives us out of the nursery to help others." One colleague calls such pronouncements, "easy answers to difficult questions."

     We shall see.

     During Joy's sickness and during the agonizing months after her death, the academic Lewis, who has studied and analyzed suffering, comes to experience it to the hilt. His Christian faith, always the main engine in his life, is sorely tested. He cries out, he rages, he doubts, he prays and at last he returns to where he started -- faith -- but now chastened, his answers no longer self-assured or glib.

     His theology was always Biblical and confessional but now it is tested and proved in the hot-box of experience. He says to Joy as she writhes in pain on her death bed, "When it gets close, you find out if you really believe it."

     Remarkably, unlike the way religiously motivated people are usually treated in the movies, this film watches his agony with respect. And, in the end, when he walks through a golden valley, (the main image in the movie for elusive joy), the movie lets us share his peace.

     Lewis had been right all along. It took the major tragedy of his life for that truth to become more than an academic exercise for him.

     See "Shadowlands". It is a rare and precious thing: a well- made major motion picture that deals honestly with people whose driving force in life is faith.

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Subject: Shadowlands
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001
From: Vicksburg

The film was a small gem. What I like about C.S. Lewis is that he is a proponent of the axiom that "the unexamined life is not worth living". And for both he and I the examined life enables one to better know God.

Subject: Shadowlands review -by John Schuurman
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001
From: Mark Yeoman, Oregon.

I was interested in John Schuurman's remarks about the excellent movie, Shadowlands. I copied the following from his review: "With reasonable, (for Hollywood), accuracy, and unusual, (for Hollywood), sensitivity to Christian issues, ....." Actually, the movie is not a Hollywood movie; it's a British movie. It was filmed at the venerable Shepperton studios, and on locations around England. The only American connection I can think of is the inclusion of Debra Winger and the actor who plays her son [Mazzoli(?)]. Appropriate, since they portray 'real' Americans (or were they Canadians?).

I know this is an OLD review, but since it's still the review that your website represents, maybe it should be changed, (or maybe I need to be corrected).
Thanks.........Mark Yeoman, Oregon.

Subject: movie Shadowlands
Sat, 27 Nov 1999
From: ladie-jane

i loved this movie i could not get it off my mind for a long time.
anthony and debra were great. it was a very different role for anthony.
i cried a lot through out the whole movie. i've watched it many times.
i own it. sincerly ladie-jane

November 22, 1999.
Even if we put aside the subject of the idea of real-life application of beliefs, it's a wonderful love story at its heart.
Jonah Falcon

June 22, 1999.
It is rare to find a movie that is interesting, romantic, well-done, well-performed, moving, and at the same time, happens to make you reflect deeply about the "big stuff" that life's about. I loved Shadowlands and highly recommend it to others who enjoy seeking the true meaning of life.

Anhony Hopkins did a superb job once again of portraying a character made believable to the viewing public. It was truly amazing to see an feel the emotions as they changed and grew throughout the movie.

I loved this movie and recommended it to friends and family. It showed a part of C.S. Lewis life that was unknown to me but vastly important. Now I'm going to call a friend and tell him about your web-site!