I'm not sure exactly where to start when considering this monster of a movie directed by Tom Miller. What we've got here, is more akin to a biography than a drama - and if I wanted to split hairs, I could write that a good chunk of this film feels more like an audition tape or demo reel than a movie. But one thing I can write with one hundred percent certainty is that "The Seven Sides of Shakespeare" is pretty long. Much, much longer than it needed to be or should have been. With a length of around two hours, this film is a definite investment of time - and when you consider that it's all dialog, those two hours feel more like two and one half. I'll admit it; it took two sittings to get through this flick, and what really stuck with me? Shamrock McShane, the movie's writer, and star is one hell of an actor. His talent and experience shine through loud and clear - but he just can't stand up to the run time. There were moments I wanted to do what the students did in an anecdote from the film - grab my program and duck out early. But there were also times I was transfixed, glued to my screen hypnotized by McShane. If ever I had mixed feelings regarding a film, it is now.
The film is split into acts/chapters and also has acts within the chapters. Mostly, it follows along with Shamrock's life, and obviously Shakespeare. But this film also deals with Shamrock's thoughts on various subjects, including ego, and a very somber segment on death. The film is an assortment of interview-style clips, cartoon-like imagery, overlays, and lots of footage all mixed into one long surreal trek. Part of the charm is the way it's all put together, but that charm doesn't even come close to the sound of Shamrock's voice as he guides us through the film. The simple truth of this flick? There's a lot of good stuff here, but the journey wasn't an easy one to manage in one sitting. For me at least.
So, by now, I've made it clear I think the film is too long, but I want to dive into that a little deeper. As I wrote above, it took a couple of tries to get through, but here's the thing. I think I still missed a lot of content along the way. You see, reader, I wanted to keep watching. I was mesmerized listening to Shamrock McShane narrate his way from start to finish... but here's what kept happening. I would be completely into the film, and then suddenly, I would return to my senses and find out a few minutes had passed by. I had zoned out completely. So, my first instinct was to rewind and see what I had missed, and I did, many times. But then I had to contend with the film's overall run time, which made me not want to rewind too much. Now, I'm not trying to be harsh with this film. McShane is excellent and has no problem capturing the attention of whoever is watching. The problem is that he has to keep grabbing your attention. Over and over again.
At the end of the day? "The Seven Sides of Shakespeare" requires a devoted, true lover of indie film - along with a dedicated, true lover of dialog heavy, excuse me, monologue heavy productions. Had this film been shorter, without question my rating would have been higher. "The Seven Sides of Shakespeare" will probably have trouble holding the attention of the average Joe, making this film a tough sell for the masses. But what can I say? If this style of filmmaking is your cup of tea, you'll love it. If not, well, reader, you get the idea.