Shakirah Bourne (director)
82 mins (length)
04 February 2018 (released)
04 February 2018
Just how many great films can you name that are loosely based on plays by William Shakespeare? Academy award best picture winner West Side Story, classic Disney animation The Lion King, Akira Kurosawa’s epics Ran and Throne of Blood, high quality 00’s rom-coms She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name just a few. Adding another entry to the long list, A Caribbean Dream updates the magical comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, moving the setting of the story from ancient Athens to an unnamed modern day Caribbean island.
Hermia and Lysander are in love, but Hermia’s father insists she must marry Demetrius, who rejects Helena’s doting in his pursuit of Hermia. The lovers decide to elope, travelling into the woods late at night. Here they encounter the sprites of the forest, themselves engaged in a conflict of love. Fairy king Oberon seeks the love of Titania, commanding his servant Puck to enchant her in order to gain her favour. Puck takes it upon himself to come to the aid of the humans, and hijinks ensue when everyone begins to fall in love with the wrong person. Along the way, a troupe of fishermen performing a play, a collection of jokes about a person’s height, and a woman turned into a donkey all feature.
It is impossible to miss the vibrancy instilled in the film, recalling the unsubtle emotion of Almodovar or Yimou Zhang’s Hero. The visual exploration of the island falls somewhere between the holiday destination showcasing present in rom-coms such as Couples Retreat and Blended, and the quiet unveiling of mystic opulence as in Embrace of the Serpent. Disappointingly, the film lands closer to the former. This is just one example of director Shakirah Bourne’s bold, if a little unrefined, style. Many of Shakespeare’s jokes are delivered in almost pantomime style, ironically making them too obvious to be humourous. In a strong ensemble cast there isn’t one performer that stands out, and it is a shame that the visual effects are a little basic. One noticeable change Bourne has made to the original is the choice to age young fairy Puck. It is Puck’s mistake to meddle in the lives of the humans, and casting middle aged Patrick Michael Foster seems an attempt to add wisdom where playfulness is required. Just as in Kenneth Branagh’s recent production of Romeo and Juliet, where the role of Mercutio was played by theatrical legend Derek Jacobi, some of the youthful mischief and passion is lost from the role, replaced by a sort of bumbling confusion.
Every adaptation is made for a reason, usually as a modern update or translation into a different culture, showing the timelessness and universality of the Bard’s words. A Caribbean Dream is no exception, showing that love is not confined to Ancient Greece or indeed 16th Century England. As much as it is endearing to see a film imbued with such Caribbean spirit, one can’t help but wonder if this update added much to an already fantastic play. Shakespeare’s script is packed with plenty of comedy and heart-warming magic, and somehow this adaptation seems to lose a little of both. A Caribbean Dream might not ever be heralded as one of the great Shakespeare re-imaginings, but it is dutifully added to the ranks, landing somewhere between Kenneth Branagh’s straightforward Much Ado About Nothing, and the downright unwatchable Gnomeo and Juliet.