Movie review: 'Shadowlands' (1993) stars Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger

Drama/Romance/Biography. Rated PG for thematic elements.

Shadowlands is a two-hour, eleven minute, 1993 Savoy Pictures film release, in color, directed by William Attenborough, starring Anthony Hopkins, Debra Winger, Edward Hardwicke and Joseph Mazzella. It is based on the play with the same title written by William Nicholson, who also wrote the screenplay. This intelligent, touching drama is a story about C.S. Lewis’ personal life and his friendship with American author Joy Gresham.

In the 1950s in Oxford, England, C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) worked as a professor at Oxford and he also wrote books and gave lectures. C.S. Lewis, known as “Jack” to his friends, had been living a comfortable life on his family’s country estate with his brother, Warnie Lewis (Edward Hardwicke), who was a bachelor just like Jack. It was business as usual for Lewis when one day he received fan mail from a reader in America, Joy Gresham (Debra Winger). Mrs. Joy Gresham told Lewis she was intending to come to England for a visit and wanted to have an opportunity to meet him. They agreed to meet for tea.

From the moment they met, Jack and Joy found they shared an uncommon bond of friendship even though some of Joy’s brash American ways seemed out of place in the cultured academic circles of Oxford. Joy and her son Douglas (Joseph Mazzella) remained in England for a few more months after Joy had met Jack. Later, Jack invited both Joy and her son to visit for a few days at Christmas. At the Lewis’ home, Joy and her son received acceptance and unconditional love. The visit at Christmastime also proved to be an emotional turning point for Joy as she pondered a future direction for her life. Joy and her son returned to the United States after Christmas. In the meantime, Jack kept up with his busy life as a lecturer and writer.

Jack was surprised to discover that Joy was back in England several months later. He learned that Joy’s troubled and difficult marriage had finally concluded in a divorce and that Joy and her son Douglas now intended to live in England permanently. Over the next several months Jack helped Joy and her son settle in England.

Jack came to realize that he treasured his friendship with Joy because she challenged him to think about life in new and creative ways. Sometimes, Jack could not accurately define how he felt about Joy but he was certain that she brought sunshine and happiness into his life. In opening his heart and life to Joy and her son Douglas, Jack discovered that some of life’s most powerful lessons are not learned in the classroom but through personal experience.

Shadowlands is primarily a movie about the personal life of C.S. Lewis and not about his career as a renown writer and a Christian apologist. It is a gentle and moving drama which delivers a powerful message about love, suffering, and faith in God. Jack came to discover later in life that during the many years he had given lectures which enlightened others about how suffering shapes one’s life, he himself had not yet learned the very lessons he loved to speak on. Shadowlands also offers a refreshing look at genuine, real love—love not based on outward looks or what we can get from someone but rather love that seeks to give and lay down one’s life for the person we love. When Jesus taught his disciples about true love, he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB).

Shadowlands is a visually beautiful movie and was filmed in many scenic locales in England. The impressive cast, led by Anthony Hopkins who does an excellent job portraying C.S. “Jack” Lewis, rendered moving performances. Debra Winger, who played Joy Gresham, received a 1994 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a leading role.

Although Shadowlands will best be understood at an intellectual level by kids ages 10 and up, it is entirely appropriate for viewing by adults and kids of all ages. Shadowlands can gently introduce young viewers to some deeper and more abstract topics like faith, the purpose of suffering, and eternal life.


Movie trailer: 'Shadowlands' (1993) starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.

Appropriate for family viewing. Check your favorite local and online movie rental stores, or the public library for availability.

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Portland, Oregon residents can borrow Shadowlands (1993) on DVD at the Multnomah County Library, tel. 503-988-5234. Shadowlands (1993) in DVD format can be rented at Movie Madness, 4320 SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon, 97215, tel. 503-234-4363.


Author, poet, columnist, and speaker JENNIFER ANNE FABREGAS MESSING of Portland, Oregon, is a wife, and mother of three children. She has a bachelor's degree in Christian Education and a diploma in Journalism and Short Story Writing. A past president of the Oregon Christian Writers, Jennifer Anne has over 200 articles, short stories, movie reviews, and poems published in 60 magazines and books, including: The Christian Journal, Evangel, LIVE, Standard, Bible Advocate, Christian Fiction Online and Nudges from God. Her latest book, EVERLASTING LOVE: Romantic Vignettes for a Woman's Heart is now available in trade paperback and e-book format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble online, and Smashwords. Visit the BOOKS page of this website to order her books.

Copyrighted © 2017 by Jennifer Anne Fabregas Messing. All rights reserved. Contact the author for reprint information. Email:

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