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Original Title: In the Bleak Midwinter
Director: Kenneth Branagh
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 99 min

Joe feels like his life and his acting career have both gotten away from him, and as Christmas draws near, he feels compelled to do something about it.  His plan to find employment and the meaning of life is simple: gather a group of passionate actors together to put on a stage production of Hamlet in a condemned church building.  If all goes well, they may save the old church and get noticed by some casting directors.  Unfortunately, the group of actors that Joe rounds up are at best quirky, and quite possible mad.  Together they embark on the journey of a collaborative Shakespeare production, and it may be a miracle if they all get out of it alive.

As someone who has done a lot of theatre, I find this film both hilarious and touching.  The characters are all entertaining stereotypes who by the end of the film have become quite human and real.  Through the process of producing the show and building relationships with one another, the characters draw meaning out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet beautifully.  It is not strictly-speaking an adaptation of Hamlet, but themes and lines from Shakespeare’s play are interwoven with the story of the actors in an accessible and thought-provoking way.  The film is also laced with an abundance of witty lines and slapstick humor.  Not one of Branagh’s best known, but one of my favorites!

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