Debra Winger

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The devoted, and antagonistic, bond between a dramatic, charismatic widow (Shirley MacLaine) and her quietly rebellious daughter (Debra Winger) is the focal point of this film's exploration of a range of human relationships and their changes over time and under various pressures, including that of serious illness. The major focus of the last part of the film is the illness and death of the daughter from cancer and its impact on her mother, her husband and children, and their immediate circle of friends and lovers.

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film


Author and Oxford don, C. S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins), lives a sheltered life as a bachelor, sharing a house with his brother. In 1952 he meets an American woman, Mrs. Joy Gresham (Debra Winger). They become friends when Joy moves to England with her young son, Douglas, divorcing her alcoholic husband; when Joy is in danger of losing her visa, Lewis agrees to marry her so that she can become a British citizen.

The marriage appears to be purely a technicality. This is in part because of Lewis’s emotional frigidity with people, which is contrasted with the profundity and energy of his engagement with books and ideas. Joy eventually confronts him about this, and at about the same time she is diagnosed with advanced cancer.

The prospect of her death disrupts Lewis’s ideas about God, suffering, and human relationships, prompting a crisis that leads him to recognize his love for her. Their legal marriage is consecrated in her hospital room and, after radiation treatment puts her in remission, Joy and her son move in with Lewis. After a few months, she dies. Lewis is left with a new knowledge of the real paradoxes of love, connection, loss, and suffering.

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