If such deficiencies in this adaptation sound fatal, fear not. Where Steinfeld and Booth seem at times overwhelmed by the demands of playing the title roles, Giamatti dives into his performance as Friar Laurence, a key figure who comes up with the well-intentioned idea that sets the story's final tragedy in motion. Manville, so memorable as a needy, lonely woman in director Mike Leigh’s wonderful Another Year, matches Giamatti by sinking into the role of Juliet’s helpful, hopeful nurse. Together, the two veteran performers invest Romeo and Juliet with more emotion and nuance than Steinfeld and Booth combined.

This latest take on Romeo and Juliet doesn't redefine Shakespeare's play for a new generation, but it should find a receptive audience among younger viewers who are willing to give it a chance. Although it’s not great cinema, it does no damage to the story, which has endured for more than 400 years. And if it taps a new generation of Shakespeare fans who have yet to experience the Bard beyond the pages of an assigned class text, what’s the harm in that?

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Language/Profanity: "Dear God," "Holy Saint Francis!"
  • Drinking/Smoking: None
  • Sex/Nudity: Kissing; husband and wife get into bed, kiss and partially undress each other before laying down
  • Violence/Crime: Swordfights that lead to death; a friar slaps Romeo; Juliet's father throws her onto her bed and waves a fist at her; a man decides to break the law
  • Religion/Morals/MarriageReligious language throughout includes casual usage of terms like “prayer,” “glory,” “sin”; lovers marry shortly after meeting each other, and a friar says the “Holy church should bind two into one”; the best intentions are said to pave the road to hell; heaven is said to be where Juliet is; Juliet prays for strength; she asks her father’s pardon; discussion of heaven’s will, and of the One who orders all; a boy says God’s ways are hard to penetrate; suicide; a church wedding and a church funeral 

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: October 11, 2013