“There’s nothing like dying to show you you’re not in charge.” (Joy Gresham, in Shadowlands)
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I rented Shadowlands, a film about C.S. Lewis. I saw the original BBC Wales production – not the Anthony Hopkins-Debra Winger version.
I didn’t know C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was married late in life to an American woman who, soon after, died of metastatic bone cancer. This took place in the ’60’s, in the Stone Age of cancer. In a scene where Lewis anxiously grills Joy’s oncologist about the arrest of her bone tumor by radiation, the oncologist replies, “It (cancer) is like a train. You’re looking at a train in the station. It may not be moving but that’s what trains do – they move!”
This film for tv was incredibly well-written. Considering its slow, talking-heads television style, it was remarkably sensitive, beautiful, restrained.
After Joy Gresham’s death, Lewis published A Grief Observed, comprised of four notebooks detailing his grief and loss. Shadowlands is based on that work. If the narration is any indication, I want to hole up in a comfy chair for a weekend and read all his works (other than Narnia).
Many memorable quotes. Lewis was a devout Christian, and his loss made him doubt that god was loving and merciful as he’d preached on so many radio shows. “What if we’re just rats in a laboratory for our own good…God as the vivisectionist…?”