While this review is not on a book, it is on the dramatization of a prolific author who has written many great fiction and nonfiction. Plus, good movies are hard to find, but some films are like diamonds in the rough. They are hidden gems that have always been there; just a few knew of their excellence. One such movie that fits this description is Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins.
Shadowlands is a film where Hopkins plays the late C.S. Lewis and his surprise marriage to his wife Joy. Hopkins both excels at his portrayal of Lewis while honoring his faith well, especially for a Hollywood film.
Part of the surprise with this movie is that it came after Hopkins initial portrayal of Hannibal Lecter and Van Helsing in Dracula. Since Lewis is considered a giant in the Christian faith, at least during the 20th century, it is easy that this film may have been forgotten in Hopkin’s lexicon of movies. Afterall, it is not often that one can legitimately contrast Dracula, Hannibal Lecture, and C.S. Lewis in the same paragraph. Despite these odd contrasts, the film is worth watching for the following reasons:
- Production is Valued – Recently Hollywood has attempted to make a better effort when making Christian films. For example, they will try to bring in a big-name actor. However, the movie is left with either a B-movie or made for TV-movie feel. Shadowlands has neither, which allows the viewer to enjoy the story without distraction.
- Difficulty is Valued – Too often Christian films love to close the plot in the end neatly. The aim is correct. Often producers want to show the hope of the Gospel lived throughout life. The problem with this approach is, often life does not have the happy ending for some time. Therefore, Christians films can inadvertently portray a lite-prosperity gospel. Though the intention is to inspire Christians; for some, it will offer a false hope that can frustrate in real life when the results are not so soon. Shadowlands does the impossible job of closing the movie by showing a harsh part of life, yet leaving the characters with a profound hope. This dichotomy is an example of how Christians movies should conclude. Not that every movie should end on a depressive thought, but that the consequences of living in a fallen world should remain as realistic as the Gospel hope often portrayed. Remember, the Gospel rescues us from the fallen hurt of the world, which should not be easily dismissed. Such quick dismissals cheapen the cost that Christ paid for both our sins, and it’s practical consequences. While Shadowlands does not overtly preach the Gospel, the movie provides a balanced portrait of the Christian dilemma and hope too.
- Faith is Valued – Throughout the film Lewis’ faith if valued. Pictures of how he connected his faith with his literary work among his colleagues exist. Apologetic lectures are shot multiple times. Plus, there is a point where he shows his vulnerability and how God can use this grief as a “tool” for his faith. These and other scenes exist throughout the movie. Even the closing line of the film, which I will not spoil, echoes of his devout Christianity to the trained ear.
There are historical inaccuracies in the movie. These changes though are done to better tell the narrative of the overall point of Lewis’ life during this period. So yes, one can get picky on certain historical points if they like, but the changes do not deceive from telling the truth of Lewis’ faith, struggle, and hope.
Another issue some Christians will have with the film is that it does not give the Gospel message clear enough, if at all. But, this point is not the goal of the film. No, it seeks to show the faith and love of a man who was religious no matter the circumstances. As a result, for any Christian who would like to see a clearer Gospel message, then that leaves room for the viewer. Lewis was a solid apologist. There is no better opportunity to use the film than to use it as an apologetic bridge to talk about faith issues, including the Gospel. If not, then it is still a great movie and far better than most one will find from Hollywood, so enjoy it.
Making a Christian movie is tough. Either it is done poorly due to budget constraints or the faith elements critical to the story are minimized. Shadowlands does neither. Like Lewis and his wife Joy, production and faithful storytelling may seem like an odd couple. But, when worked out then a great love can be discovered. Shadowlands then is a great marriage of two people and two things Christians most often want in a story. Therefore, like a bride waiting for her groom, do not delay and see the film for yourself.