The classic Romeo and Juliet tale is given a modern spin in “R#J,” an inventive but irritating film from director Carey Williams. The movie is too drawn-out (especially the painfully prolonged ending), and the gimmick of telling the story entirely through social media and smartphone screens doesn’t take long to become annoying.
You know the plot of the world’s most famous love story, and the film faithfully follows the original work of literature. A war is brewing between the Montagues and the Capulets, and the younger residents of Verona are using their phones to document it all. This leads to a head-spinning series of Instagram posts, text messages that come fast and furious, FaceTime calls, chats, selfies, GIFs, and Spotify playlists that score the action. The characters speak in a manner that blends the formal with the casual, reciting their lines in iambic pentameter that is a mix of Shakespearean language and modern slang.
Williams has assembled an original, thorough vision with a technological spin for his version of the story, and it’s fun to see the methods in which he updates this highly creative retelling. He finds super inventive ways to tie the story into a modern setting, but the flashes of brilliance are offset by plenty of moments of annoyance. This would have worked far better as a short film.
The film is experimental in nature, and some of the ideas are extremely disturbing (like live streaming suicides on YouTube). It’s cringey in parts, but “R#J” is a cool multicultural update on Shakespeare’s original work, and I can appreciate what the filmmaker is trying to do here.