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The Independent Critic

Emma Beth Jones, James McClelland, Luke Hunter, Jody Larcombe, Johnny Lucas
Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare, Hillary Shakespeare
Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare, Hillary Shakespeare
116 Mins.

 "Much Ado" Set for North American Premiere at Cinequest 
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For their second feature flick the Shakespeare Sisters, Anna-Elizabeth and Hillary, may very well have returned to their roots by tackling an inspired adaptation of a familiar work by that slightly better known Shakespeare, William if you're not quite figuring it out, with Much Ado all sets for its North American premiere at Cinequest from April 1-17th where it will screen virtually in advance of in-person screenings in August. 

In the film, Beatrice (Emma Beth Jones) and Hero (Jody Larcombe) are cousins and best friends with decidedly different approaches to love. Beatrice is already once burned by her ex-boyfriend Benedick (Johnny Lucas) and has passionately sworn off men. On the flip side, Hero is an intensely shy diehard romantic who harbors a significant crush on Benedick's best friend Claudio (Luke Hunter) but dare not speak a word of it. When the boys rugby team's bus breaks down, they are provided shelter by Leonato (Peter Saracen), who just so happens to be Hero's father and Beatrice's uncle. Beatrice is none too thrilled to see her ex-boyfriend, though sparks begin to quietly fly between Hero and Claudio. 

Of course, this is Shakespeare and this is love. So, nothing goes quite as it should. 

I found myself quite enchanted by the Shakespeare Sisters' first film Soundtrack to Sixteen. With Much Ado, they manage to maintain much the same vibe while remaining faithful to Shakespeare. In adapting the story, they utilize the original dialogue modernized and they've somewhat shifted perceptions to give Much Ado a stronger female voice. The shift is subtle yet obviously and remarkably effective. 

It helps, of course, to have two compelling actresses as co-leads in Jody Larcombe and Emma Beth Jones. Both command the screen quite nicely despite both being relative newcomers. It will be a joy to watch their future work. Simon Porter's original music creates a vibrant and alive tapestry matched nicely by Tom Van Den Broek's casual, relational lensing and a production landscape that immerses you in Shakespeare's language while planting you smack dab in modern England. 

There's no denying at times that Much Ado is a low-budget indie, though I found myself consistently enchanted by both Jones and Larcombe. Emma Beth Jones adds a much needed spark as Beatrice, bold and brash yet in moments also achingly vulnerable. Larcombe's is the quieter performance, emotionally resonant and honest with a sensitivity that works even in the film's lighter moments. 

Much Ado is a sure sign of growth for the Shakespeare Sisters, whose exciting new voices affirm their promise from Soundrack to Sixteen and whose talent seems limitless. Utilizing a different voice, the Shakespeare Sisters bring fresh life to Much Ado About Nothing with this engaging tale that should please Shakespeare fans young and old. 

Much Ado is continuing on its indie fest circuit and here's hoping it'll find additional stops here in the U.S.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic