Measure for Measure

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
Measure for Measure Movie Poster Image
Violent, salty crime drama doesn't elevate Bard's play.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 107 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Some recurring ideas of forgiveness and love -- and idea that those who have power to judge us in criminal matters aren't necessarily morally superior -- but no clearly positive message. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

A couple in an interfaith relationship is portrayed positively. That said, the woman's family takes brutal steps to stop it. 

Violence

Lots of graphic violence, including a shooting rampage and bloody beatings, many of which result in death. A mother strikes her daughter. Suicide is depicted. Attempted prison rape. Sexual coercion is a plot point.

Sex

Woman wearing lingerie uses crass sexual terms.

Language

"F--k" is used often.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are drug dealers, including characters who are portrayed sympathetically. A character uses meth and inflicts violence on many. Smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Measure for Measure is a contemporary romantic crime drama based on the same-named Shakespeare play. The story revolves around an interfaith couple (Harrison Gilbertson and Megan Hajjar) who fall in love, despite her family's objections. Her brother (Faysall Bazzi), a crime boss, takes brutal steps to ensure that they stop seeing each other. The movie operates in a world of drug kingpins and loan sharks, and the film begins with a shooting spree by someone who gets high on meth. The bloody impact of the bullets he fires is shown on-screen. The explicit violence continues with vicious beatings, a suicide, and other threats, often with guns. "F--k" is the only curse word you'll hear, but it's used a lot. There's also suggested sexual coercion and allusions of prison rape. But when it comes to sex, the film is actually less bawdy than the play. In addition to the on-camera drug use, characters drink and smoke throughout. It diverges significantly from Shakespeare's 17th century play, so it's better viewed as an interesting dramatic sidebar than a way to help interpret the Bard's original comedy.

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What's the story?

In MEASURE FOR MEASURE, the lives of the residents of an Australian housing project become intertwined when an interfaith romance develops between Muslim immigrant Jaweira (Megan Hajjar) and aspiring musician/wayward Catholic Claudio (Harrison Gilbertson). Believing that their relationship is unholy, Jaweira's brother, Farouk (Faysall Bazzi) sets out to end it by any means necessary. 

Is it any good?

As a play, Measure for Measure is complicated, twisty, and bawdy, but in this adaptation, it's just convoluted. In other words: Shakespeare, this is not. Screenwriters often enjoy trying to contemporize the Bard's framework to create works of their own, and that can be fun in films like 10 Things I Hate About You or The Lion King. But here the framing falls apart -- and frankly, it's the only reason to watch it. Certain elements just don't translate well. For instance, in the play, the Duke of Vienna keeps an eye on the city that he's left in the charge of his expected successor. Here, loan shark "Duke" watches all the goings on in his territory through security monitors he set up in a hotel room while he pretends he's on vacation. It's a little hard to believe. 

Talk of salvation and God and religious imagery are present everywhere, but that doesn't connect to the interfaith romance at the film's center -- or, for that matter, anything. The big plot twist is muddled, if not impossible. And while Shakespeare makes his message of "measure for measure" clear -- that those who have the power to judge us in criminal matters aren't necessarily morally superior -- that's a harder case to make in a world where the leaders are breaking the law every day.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how people who use and deal drugs are typically portrayed in mainstream media. How does Measure for Measure compare to what you've seen before?

  • Why do you think filmmakers like to rewrite masters, such as Shakespeare and Jane Austen? How does this one compare to other reimaginings?

  • How are Muslim characters portrayed here? How does it compare to other portrayals you've seen? Why is representation in the media important?

  • Talk about the violence in the movie. Do you think it was all necessary to tell the story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

Movie details

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