Iris doesn't really get mentioned much any more - I expect it'll be remembered in the footnotes of cinema for Jim Broadbent's Oscar win. But it also brought Kate Winslet her third Oscar nomination - her first since Titanic. It's probably the film that really made it clear that she would be one of the pre-eminent actresses of the 2000s. And it remains one of her finest, most overlooked performances.
The film intercuts between the deteriorating Iris Murdoch (Dame Judi Dench) and her husband's memories of her as a vibrant young intellectual who he fell in love with. Winslet moves between the effervescent passion with which Iris delivers all her philosophical reflections and her guarded, cautious approach to her actual life and work. But it'd be easy for Winslet to stick to simplistic characteristics as they are essentially all the film requires of her - it's John's memories, of course, and they could be played as uncomplicated remembrances. But Winslet gives the edge of slight condescension, hidden inadequacy, deep sensuality - and all the other things we see reflected in Dench's performance.
My main memory of the film is Winslet's squeals rising over the fade out of the previous scene where Iris has recieved the news about her condition - and then her younger self is carefreely spinning down a country road on a bicycle, a sad counterpoint to the older Iris' acceptance that her career, and her life, are ending. Or matching John's panic as he searches for Iris with more cycling and a yelled out discussion of Proteus. But as for her Oscar clip, that was probably either her soft, warm singing, or her confession of past lovers, delivered with a mix of defiance and tentative sadness. "You know more about me than anyone on earth... you are my world." It epitomizes what the film is about - what is, ultimately, a complex but dedicated love affair. And Kate delivers it beautifully.