First-time filmmaker Norry Niven's Chasing Shakespeare is full of instantly iconic images. Lightning rods reach for the heavens atop a prairie homestead. Two lovers, the girl delicate and long-haired, the boy wide-shouldered and bare-chested, ride toward sunset-lit hills on their white stallions, the animals so majestic they might well be the proud descendants of medieval knights' steeds. Unfortunately, those shots are just about the only things to recommend in Niven's blundering weepie. Crisscrossing between the alpha and omega of the horse-loving couple's courtship and eventual marriage, Chasing Shakespeare aspires to being The Notebook for interracial romance but just ends up a lumpy, soggy mess. The film's weaknesses stem mostly from James Bird's script, which feels less like the story of a couple's unique bond than a sadistic cavalcade of tragedy, a Job-style trial of what two human beings can take. Venus (Chelsea Ricketts) and William (Mike Wade) meet in 1972, she a Native American theater actress, he a studious African-American boy seeking to escape the farm life. Their meeting is followed by a torrent of bad luck: deaths in the family, geographical separation, a fainting spell, nearly terminal illness, infertility, more casting-couch racism. Fast-forward to the current day, when an elderly William (Glover) loses his wife (Tantoo Cardinal) to the big Globe Theatre in the sky. But Venus makes frequent visits back to Earth to communicate wordlessly with her husband through electricity. And what of Shakespeare in this tangle of absurdities? The Bard makes a couple of cameos via snatches of iambic pentameter, uttered by young actors who aren't convincing when performing dialogue in plain old English.
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