2021 Sundance Review: R#J

Director(s): Carey Williams

Writer(s): Rickie Castaneda, Oleskii Sobolev, Carey Williams

Cast: David Zayas, Maria Gabriela de Faria, Diego Tinoco

Synopsis: A modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

William Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet is a story that has been tried and tried again. It really is confusing that there hasn’t really ever been a truly great adaptation, given the fact that the material is pretty straightforward, but I can attest that to each adaptation being some experimental modernization of the story.

R#J is no different when it comes to that. A truly experimental modernization, Carey Williams moves this Shakespeare in the Park production online to bring us a social media filled tragedy of two star crossed lovers. While I will say the entirety of the film didn’t work for me, I definitely found enjoyment in most of it. Williams makes the Shakespearian dialogue work in what is a, mostly, faithful adaptation to the original story. At least it is faithful in the dialogue, that sounds like it is ripped directly from a Shakespeare play itself.

I also thought that while the online aspects of the film didn’t always work, it was ambitious in its attempt at retelling this tragic story. For most of this film, I sincerely appreciated where it was trying to go in retelling this story. I felt like for most of the movie it was the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ that I could understand the most. I thought the acting was pretty good, and I think the use of phones really brought the modern touch they were looking for.

However, the end of this film left me feeling confused and almost completely ruined what I thought was an enjoyable film. They tried to rewrite history and create an alternate timeline that really does damage to everything else the story sets up. It tries to “undo” the tragedy aspect of the film, and it truly just doesn’t work.

Final: Forget Shakespeare in the park, we’re moving to Shakespeare online! R#J is the latest experimental adaptation and modernization of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. While not everything in this film works, I enjoyed most of it and applaud the artistic vision from Carey Williams. I really could do without that ending though.

My Score: C

2021 Sundance Coverage

2021 Film Rankings

Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Charles Murphy.

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