Until Joy came along, Jacky Lewis never actively sought female company. It’s easy to see Lewis as an eternal child, enjoying the sedate life of an Oxford Don, living in secure bachelordom with his brother.
Then POW! BLAST! KABANG! Joy bursts onto the scene and rocks his world. Her small son already adores Lewis, and both mother and child are fans of Narnia. The scene is set for the star crossed lovers. Actually, not that star crossed. The brother good humouredly accepts these new additions to the family household, and apart from upsetting a few ancient dons, Joy is soon established into Lewis’s world when he gallantly offers marriage in order for her to remain in the United Kingdom. It begins then as a marriage of convenience and there is something magical about the way this middle aged couple realise they’re falling in love. But like all great love stories, their romance is doomed. Their world is shattered when Joy is diagnosed with cancer, a death sentence in those days.
As they come to terms with this, Joy becomes obsessed with a painting of an idyllic landscape. Lewis admits he doesn’t know where it is, or even if it exists, but believes it may be an artistic impression of a Welsh panorama. As Joy enters the final weeks of her life, they set off on a pilgrimage to find the exact spot.
This is where I always come over all unnecessary. They find it. That perfect vista, the perfect country with purple mountains in the distance. Lewis lifts her gently from the car, so she can gaze upon this magical sight.
I can’t tell you an awful lot about the film from here on, although I’ve tried several times to watch without sobbing uncontrollably from that point onwards.
Shadowlands perfectly sums up Lewis’s legacy to us. He has given us the world of Narnia, a world which he emphasises can only be reached by magic; accessible only to children or those who retain a child-like willingness to believe. This world and others created by the likes of Jules Verne, Tolkien, and more recently J K Rowling are imaginary. They are not real. Until the moment you choose to pull down a book from the shelf, or download an electronic copy to your reader and share in the fantasy.
Then they exist.