Shakespeare Behind Bars - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shakespeare Behind Bars Reviews

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Top Critic
J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
August 12, 2008
This fascinating video documentary covers a nine-month rehearsal of Shakespeare's final play by inmates at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in La Grange, Kentucky.
Felix Gonzalez Jr.
DVD Review
July 10, 2007
... a truly compelling examination of the extent to which art can lift the human spirit, no matter how tragic the surrounding circumstances may be.
David Noh
Film Journal International
March 1, 2007
It's a tribute to the dry-eyed empathy of the filmmakers that these men, guilty of the most heinous crimes of murder and violence, somehow manage to win your sympathy.
Jeffrey Chen
Window to the Movies
August 10, 2006
I found this documentary to be sobering, even optimistic ... it's a reminder that being human means being complex.
Full Review | Original Score: 8/10
Top Critic
Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
May 19, 2006
The up-close interviews with the prisoners, many of whom are in jail for murder, are the heart of the film.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Top Critic
Kevin Crust
Los Angeles Times
May 12, 2006
Rogerson and producer Jilann Spitzmiller ably convey the humanity of the inmates while also exposing them as deeply flawed individuals. The film also reconfirms the enduring relevance and power of Shakespeare and his adaptability to almost any milieu.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
Top Critic
Jessica Winter
L.A. Weekly
May 11, 2006
Albeit a tad repetitive, Shakespeare Behind Bars succeeds in humanizing men we might too easily label as monsters, and provides a solid argument in favor of prisons that place rehabilitation above retribution.
Top Critic
Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
May 11, 2006
Few non-fiction films about the arts hit as hard or soar to such heights of poetry and humanity.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
May 5, 2006
Observes as the inmates use theater to massage knots of guilt and anguish in their psyches.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Luke Y. Thompson
New Times
April 29, 2006
Perhaps it's just the inner drama geek talking, but there's something extremely compelling about seeing hardened felons preparing to put on a classic play with the enthusiasm of giddy schoolgirls.
Top Critic
Walter V. Addiego
San Francisco Chronicle
April 14, 2006
The film makes the case -- one that always needs making -- that, despite what they've done, these men retain some shred of humanity.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Mike Russell
Oregonian
April 14, 2006
By presenting murderers as actors and then filming those actors discussing their sins, the line between performance and soul-searching blurs in unnerving ways.
Full Review | Original Score: A
Phil Villarreal
Arizona Daily Star
April 13, 2006
For once, here's a prison movie without a riot or an impromptu cafeteria fight in which one inmate bashes the other over the head with a food tray.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Jeremy Mathews
Film Threat
April 8, 2006
Rogerson has crafted an emotionally satisfying exploration of the creative process through people who, before the program started, weren't comfortable with expressing themselves at all.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
Jonathan W. Hickman
Entertainment Insiders
April 8, 2006
The search for inner forgiveness is a ribbon that runs throughout the film...
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
March 31, 2006
An immensely moving tribute to the power of art.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Bill White
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
March 30, 2006
A portrait of repentant convicts that is both heartbreaking and unnerving.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Spirituality and Practice
March 13, 2006
A truly inspiring documentary that depicts the salutary effects of prison inmates performing in an annual Shakespeare production.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Ken Fox
TV Guide
March 10, 2006
Shakespeare himself couldn't have written better or more complex characters, and far from strange, by the end of this extraordinary film you couldn't imagine Shakespeare performed anywhere else.
| Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Jami Bernard
New York Daily News
March 10, 2006
The mere fact that Shakespeare can teach hardened criminals to search their souls gives hope that forgiveness and redemption are possible -- even at the bottom of the human barrel.
| Original Score: 3/4
Stuart Klawans
The Nation
October 18, 2008
Top Critic

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 8, 2006
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