‘R#J’ Review (Sundance Film Festival 2021)

Cameron Engels, Maria Gabriela de Faria, RJ Cyler, Diego Tinoco and Siddiq Saunderson

R#J is an American drama written by Rickie Castaneda, Oleksii Sobolev, and Carey Williams, who also directed the film. The film is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy “Romeo and Juliet”. I don’t even know where to begin with this love story as old as time and quite frankly after watching R#J it makes me wish this story had stayed in the days as old as time.

This film tries to be a blend of Searching and the classic Shakespeare play, but with a Gen-Z centric twist to varying results.

It was an interesting concept that only became more worrisome as the movie progressed. R#J somehow manages to miss all the big moments from the source material. We are only given the start and end of each ‘Act’ from the original stage script which in turn breaks the film into five acts. One moment they’re just meeting and then magically months go by without the audience being aware so we seem to miss pivotal emotional moments. The film takes the story approach of being told through technology (phones, laptops, etc) and the whole concept works against itself ultimately.

The script is equally as messy as the concept. When characters are talking over some form of live camera, they talk Shakespearean which is difficult enough as it is. In addition to the old style of speech, whenever there’s background noise or side conversations I found the basic communication overall to be a hard thing to follow. Lastly, the storytelling suffers from resolving built up conflicts way too quickly while also not giving the audience a proper introduction to said conflict.

This is a story of love that has been re-told numerous times. While I give Carey Williams credit for trying a new take on an old story, unfortunately the execution missed the mark. If anybody wants to experience this story, I’d recommend just reading the original writing by Shakespeare or watch some of the previous film adaptations. I give ‘R#J’ a 2/10.

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