ROMEO AND JULIET (2014)
Teenagers in ancient Verona, Romeo Montague (Douglas Booth) and Juliet Capulet (Hailee Steinfeld), fall madly in forbidden love - their families are mortal enemies, frozen in an age old feud. Unable and unwilling to resist their love, the young lovers marry secretly, only to find themselves caught in a series of events that lead to a tragic misunderstanding.
Review by Louise Keller:
I felt like jumping on a plane to Verona after watching Julian Fellowes' traditional adaptation of William Shakespeare's tragedy in which beauty, youth and a superb sense of place cocoon the narrative in which forbidden love is the theme. Director Carlo Carlei's film sweeps us into 16th century Verona with its ancient walls and turrets, candlelit halls, cobbled pathways, grand murals and distinctive roman architecture amid an ever-present musical score of running quavers that reinforce the essence of time - or the lack of it - for the world's most famous lovers.
It's a bit turgid at times and the plot plods in the establishment scenes, but then the swell of romance and the flush of first love works its magic through its photogenic young stars.
While the story's focus concentrates on the hopeless love match between Romeo (Douglas Booth) and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld), whose families, the Montagues and Capulets respectively are sworn enemies, it is the theatrical stalwarts Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis who form the pillars that support the tale. Giamatti, as the sympathetic Friar Laurence brings a passionate spark to the role, while Lewis, as Juliet's father Lord Capulet injects verve as he lays down his strict rules. Their emotions form a solid platform for the young lovers' plight, prompting us to be moved by their tears.
Steinfeld, so impressive in True Grit (2010), is mostly decorative here, her pretty, heart-shaped face aglow with the promise of Juliet's happiness, while Booth elicits more emotion, his handsome features, square jaw and luscious lips demanding our attention. They make a beautiful couple and the balcony scene in which Romeo scales the walls of Juliet's home, amid the climbing pink roses is romance personified. Their scenes together are romantic in the true poetic sense, filled with the promise of eternal commitment while Abel Korzeniowski's heavily stringed orchestral score constantly weaves lively, melodic elements of passion as a counterpoint. The music sound mix occasionally almost drowns out the dialogue, which is a distraction.
All the cast is good with special mention to Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) as Benvolio; the scene in which he reveals Juliet's fate to his friend Romeo towards the end of the film, is heart-wrenching stuff. Lesley Manville as Juliet's caring nurse, Natasha McElhone as her mother and Stellan Skarsgård as the Prince of Verona also have a strong presence. The production design and costumes are superb and Verona itself is one of the film's highlights. The potency of some of Shakespeare's well known quotes may be lost in this adaptation, but the essence of romance and youth is the magic potion here.
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ROMEO AND JULIET (2014) (M)
CAST: Hailee Steinfeld, Douglas Booth, Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Lesley Manville, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgard, Tomas Arana, Laura Morante
PRODUCER: Simon Bosanquet, Lawrence Elman, Julian Fellowes, Alexander Koll, Ileen Maisel, Doug Mankoff, Andrew Spaulding, Nadja Swarovski, Dimitra Tsingou
DIRECTOR: Carlo Carlei
SCRIPT: Julian Fellowes (Play by William Shakespeare)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall
EDITOR: Peter Honess
MUSIC: Abel Korzeniowski
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tonino Zera
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 27, 2014