What's this? Another "Shoulda Coulda Woulda" already?! My reasoning will become clear in the next couple of months when I tie a few things together in a retrospective look at Meryl's entire film career. Before I can do that, however, I need to tackle a couple more films I wish Meryl had ended up doing. 1993's Shadowlands was not on my radar until a few weeks ago when I read a great article from last year by Michael Burge. After a little digging, I discovered that Meryl was indeed considered for the lead role of American poet Joy Gresham, which ultimately went to Debra Winger.
Of course I had to watch the film before I decided to write about it. What makes the possibility of this film compelling is that it too (like The Remains of the Day and Thelma and Louise) was made during what Burge called in his article Meryl's "wilderness years," a term I love and am going to steal. It also could've seen her team up with Anthony Hopkins (again), an onscreen chemistry which I'm certain would've worked exceedingly well.
In this film (unlike The Remains of the Day) we actually get a payoff for the couple, in that they officially express their feelings for each other and end up together. As stated, Meryl would've played real life poet Joy Gresham, who after her divorce emigrates to England with her son, where she befriends well-known author of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis (Hopkins). The two enter a marriage of convenience in order for Joy to attain English citizenship. After her diagnosis of bone cancer, however, the two make known their true affections for each other and officially tie the knot "before God."
This film provides some great acting opportunities. Debra Winger does a great job, having received an Academy Award nomination. Like Winger, we probably would've seen Meryl with a bit of a New York accent, and a fun, mildly imprudent personality which contrasts well with Lewis's reserved demeanor. One of the more challenging areas includes her interaction with her son, and their grappling with her inevitable death. Part of me thinks that director Richard Attenborough knew how effectively Winger plays the part of a terminally ill mom saying goodbye to her son, considering another of her Oscar-nominated performances in Terms of Endearment. That's a role up to that point we really hadn't seen from Meryl. I'm sure it would've only fueled the criticism of Meryl's most prolific detractor, the late Pauline Kael, who wished we could see her "giggle more and suffer less." I'd just assume see her in the best role, regardless of how funny or serious it is. Another one missed.