Shakespeare Behind Bars - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Shakespeare Behind Bars Reviews

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Top Critic
Kyle Smith
New York Post
March 10, 2006
We'd all like to believe that art is a lot more powerful than it is, but during rehearsals, two inmates who swear that Shakespeare has shown them the light are instead cast off to the Hole for breaking prison rules.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Michael Booth
Denver Post
April 14, 2006
Rogerson lets the cameras roll, and we get real insight into daily prison life. But he doesn't stop to create context, and we feel stuck inside the razor wire.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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
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
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.
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
Top Critic
Jan Stuart
March 9, 2006
Any minute of this low-budget, digitally shot documentary packs more punch than the entirety of most triumph-of-the-human-spirit blockbusters.
| 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
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
Mike Russell
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
Top Critic
Matt Singer
Village Voice
March 7, 2006
Rogerson's structure is ingenious: He dilutes our initial skepticism by showcasing the prisoners' thoughtfulness and intelligence, and as soon as we've come to care for the men he shocks us with the details of their crimes.
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
Top Critic
Jeannette Catsoulis
New York Times
March 9, 2006
In Shakespeare Behind Bars, the most restricted people in society find freedom in performance and release in words.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
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.
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
Bill White
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
March 30, 2006
A portrait of repentant convicts that is both heartbreaking and unnerving.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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
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
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
Top Critic
Joe Leydon
March 9, 2006
There's no denying the pic's overall impact as a compelling study of art as a source of transcendence.
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