Cymbeline Blu-ray review

“For years Cymbeline, King of the Briton Motorcycle Club, has maintained an uneasy peace with the Roman Police Force. The Queen, Cymbeline’s second wife, has her own agenda. But she’s losing hope that her son will pair up with the King’s only daughter, Imogen. Without consulting her royal parents, Imogen decides to marry Posthumus, Cymbeline’s penniless protégé. The marriage triggers the King’s rage, setting in motion a series of disastrous events. But fortune brings in some boats that are not steered…”


After that wordy preface—intercut with footage of the introduced characters and actions—the movie backtracks to one week earlier. It’s then that Imogen (Dakota Johnson, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY) has a romantic rendezvous with Posthumus (Penn Badgley, who portrayed Jeff Buckley in 2012’s GREETINGS FROM TIM BUCKLEY), only to have it broken up by her leather-clad, gun-wielding father, Cymbeline (Ed Harris, Michael Berry’s FRONTERA). As it turns out, whoever weds Imogen will be next in line to take the lead motorcycle at the head of the pack, a position that Queen (Mila Jovovich, the RESIDENT EVIL franchise) wishes only for her son from a previous marriage, Cloten (Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov in the modern STAR TREK film series). Meanwhile, sleazeball Iachimo (Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD) tries to bed Imogen just to prove a point (his attempts stop at selfies with the sleeping princess).


CYMBELINE is based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, a lesser-known entry in the playwright’s canon. This is one of the few adaptations of the play (following Lucius Henderson’s silent version, now more than 100 years old, and the BBC’s 1982 version with Helen Mirren as Imogen and Richard Johnson in the title role) and will likely be pushed to the wayside for more popular works, just like the source.


In CYMBELINE, the characters speak the words of Shakespeare, even though the setting has been modernized. This calls to mind movies like Baz Luhrmann’s ROMEO + JULIET (also featuring a turn by John Leguizamo), which used the same technique to simultaneously attract a younger crowd and stay faithful to the bard. The approach works against itself, though, as hearing actors like Ed Harris and Mila Jovovich spout “thou” and the like comes off more amusing than intended.


CYMBELINE is directed by Michael Almereyda, whose previous efforts include 2000’s HAMLET, which starred Hawke as the Prince of Denmark and also used the questionable technique. Almereyda clearly has good intentions and wants to make the material work. But his latest, like HAMLET, lacks a pulse. Here is a group of talented actors that seem tuned into the words, but still coming off unnaturally. Because of this, and a story that lacks many compelling elements (which could explain why it’s been adapted so few times), CYMBELLINE is often difficult to sit through.

Of the positives, CYMBELINE has strong cinematography by frequent David Gordon Green collaborator Tim Orr and an effective debut film score by composer David Ludwig, both of which enhance the mood of the story.


Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong and colors are accurate throughout, although some of the night scenes lack much depth.

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. Sound effects and David Ludwig’s moody score come through without noticeable flaw.

Commentary with screenwriter/director Michael Almereyda, actor Ethan Hawke and Anthony Holden: Almereyda, Hawke (recorded separately) and Shakespeare historian Holden offer a decent track in which they discuss the movie, the play that inspired it and production details.

Behind the Scenes of CYMBELINE (13:01): This promotional piece features interviews and clips.

Interviews with Cast and Crew: Featured are Ethan Hawke (3:47), Dakota Johnson (2:57), Ed Harris (2:12), John Leguizamo (3:54), Anton Yelchin (3:44) and Penn Badgley (2:45).


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