Upon arriving at the mac cinema to see the new Romeo and Juliet film I was interested to see what a new adaptation of this epic love story could offer. However, it turns out not much.
Romeo and Juliet are meant to be young lovers destined for heartbreak; however Douglas Booth’s portrayal of Romeo was more confused teenager than star-crossed lover. It felt as if he was simply going through the motions, it never felt as if he was engaging with the language and frankly at points just seemed like he was uninterested in what he was saying. Juliet was slightly better, but the famous scene with Juliet on the balcony made me wince, the whole scene was so Disney I felt like she was going to break into song at any moment. The worst thing about this portrayal of Romeo and Juliet was just that, Romeo and Juliet. There was more tension created between Juliet and Tybalt in one scene than Romeo and Juliet across the whole film.
The film sticks to the plot of the Shakespearian original but not to the original Shakespearian traditional dialogue which didn’t do the film any favours. They didn’t improve it in any way, and there was the odd line here and there that felt so modern, it was as if the actors had just slipped back into modern day. Another serious flaw with this film was the treatment of some of the most famous lines in history: “a plague on both you’re houses” was barely even finished, and “Romeo Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo” was basically sung at me.
The best character in the film was Benvolio played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who gave an emotional and at times touching performance. The scene where he travels to tell Romeo of Juliet’s supposed death the young actor’s performance was truly heart-wrenching, this however only served to show Booth up, as his reaction to the news of his lover and wife’s death is met by nothing more than a frown and single tear. There were some fantastic portrayals by the supporting cast, Fryer Lawrence played by Paul Giamatti and Lord Capulet by Damien Lewis added some much needed authority and quirkiness to the film.
It’s clear what’s happened here, the film has been aimed at a teenage ‘twilight type’ audience, and little more thought has been given to the film than to cast a Romeo that girls can swoon over and a Juliet girls can hope to be. But it’s just so infuriating that they feel the need to reduce such a brilliant work such as Romeo and Juliet into this attempt to sell it to a younger audience. Don’t under estimate young people, you shouldn’t dumb something so beautiful down just to appeal to an audience that would rather watch Edward and Bella look moodily off into the distance than understand a great literary work anyway.
By Noemi Barranca