Watch R#J (2021) online
Country: United States
Time: 1h 31min
At the end of "Shakespeare In Love," the original 1592 audience at the Globe theater sits in awed silence for the artistry as the first performance of 'Romeo and Juliet' concludes. That was my exact reaction after watching this, a modern adaptation so original and so visionary that - as someone who has seen every film version of this classic - every previous norm about this greatest of all love stories was shattered. We all know the end, but the format is what is so groundbreaking (that, I won't spoil!). The film uses the play's dialog but in a completely new - and unexpected - format that sweeps the audience into the frantic pace of modern communication. The performances are authentic and heartfelt, all so good that you know they have stellar careers ahead. Camaron Engels' deeply sensitive and idealistic Romeo, the exquisitely beautiful Francesca Noel's strength of Juliet's character with a vulnerability that emerges under pressure, the controlled violence of Diego Tinoco's menacing Tybalt, and Siddiq Saunderson's incomparable star turn as the flamboyant Mercutio (only John McEnery in the Zeffirelli film ever did a more memorable Mercutio, IMO) - all give completely new perspectives to these classic roles. The reason for their deaths is the change - and spoiler - that I will not include here, but it is a painful exploration of the power of social media in young people's lives, that makes this film a very cautionary modern tale that no other Romeo and Juliet interpretation has ever had before this. All the performers are artists of color, a long overdue approach. The soundtrack is the perfect framework, most especially Francesca Noel's original work in her lovely ethereal voice that you can easily imagine Juliet singing to Romeo. This goes far beyond any other modern version, such as Franco Zeffirelli's, or the one with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes (good as these were), in that this could only be set in 2021. If you love this greatest of all love stories in the English language, run don't walk to see this version. Director Carey Williams has taken us from 1592 to 2021 in one visionary new approach to this classic.
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