Director: Julian Fellowes
In this Romeo and Juliet adaptation,
Carlo Carlei creates a conservative old-but-new version of the Bard’s classic in which the grand setting surpasses the mediocre acting of the mismatched pair, Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfield.
Carlei has had a tough act to follow after Baz Luhrmann’s inspired modernised adaptation that saw Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes bring fire to the screen. In constructing a version that stays true to a traditional setting Julian Fellowes (best known for being the mastermind behind Downton Abbey) perhaps limits himself creatively, yet at the same time to take such an iconic text and play with the setting and time period is a risk that only a few can take. Then again, it seemed to pay off for Luhrmann.
Noticeable changes have been made to the dialogue and language, some subtle, but others do shout out that they are not lines from the original play. This could be to make the language more accessible for younger generations, but surely the language should match the traditional and authentic setting? Puristswill no doubt scoff at the changes that have been made but it is nevertheless an intriguing aspect of this adaptation.
The leading pair, Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfield are perhaps the prettiest Romeo and Juliet to have ever graced the screen. However, in terms of acting Booth clearly leads this adaptation and Steinfield follows as a passive Juliet who spends most of her time lying across her bed. Booth steals the show with his puffy red eyes from countless tears that flow from 30 minutes in right up to his tragic end, yet he still manages to look flawless.
However, the real standout in this cast is Paul Giamatti who shines as a firm but fair Friar Lawrence, who plays more of a father figure to Romeo. Meanwhile Damian Lewis plays the perfect Lord Capulet: melodramatic, oblivious, with just the right amount of aggression albeit with a slightly odd hairstyle.
Despite some over-the-top acting, the cinematography in this movie is by far its best feature. Having been shot in the actual Verona, as well as other locations in Rome Carlei’s adaptation stands out as the most aesthetically pleasing version of Shakespeare’s tragedy – and that’s not including Douglas Booth, who is more than easy on the eyes.