Directed by: Ira Storozhenko
Written by: Wilandrea Blair
Starring: Reise Alexander, Marc Hills, Trew Mullen
If Joker could see Serena (an arresting Reise Alexander) in Ira Storozhenko’s Juliet (before the final scene), he would have approached her and offered a place in his army. “Let’s take revenge on this society who has treated us unfairly,” Joker would have made a speech. Could Serena have accepted the offer?
Serena is the new girl in her new school. It is always a nightmare to attend a new school. You have to start over again, make new friends, and adjust to the setting. For Serena, it’s even worse than a nightmare. First of all, she is a transgender teenage girl. Second, she gets in line to audition for the role of Juliet. Her peers already despise her. On top of that, the character of Juliet is basically a woman. This invites more bullying towards Serena because of her gender.
Storozhenko has based Juliet on her own experiences. According to her statement, some of her LGBTQ friends had to leave Russia because of discrimination. How horrifying! Storozhenko makes sure you experience the uneasiness, the discomfort of being surrounded by scourges. Because watching Juliet is like walking within an excruciating cage. With the help of tight close-ups, Juliet packs the viewer inside the uncomfortable perspective of its protagonist.
Serena is extremely talented and takes her task seriously. She underlines the script with various colors and rehearses her lines. The toxic environment strips away her confidence (her reflection is disfigured in the mirror). There is Rosa (Trew Mullen), your typical hot girl cum monster who regards herself as the queen. On her mirror, the words “Rosa is a superstar” are written as a testimonial. Then there is the good-looking James (Marc Hills). He inspires some faith in Serena to go ahead with the audition. But later, he breaks Serena’s trust in him. Hills does not turn James into a complete villain. His expressions and body language render James as someone who acts the way he does because of peer pressure. There may be a drop of admiration for Serena inside him, but that drop evaporates as he is expected to behave in a certain way by his friends. It is to Hills credit that he even allows such an interpretation.
Juliet does not end on a bleak note. Storozhenko’s objective, according to the director’s statement, is to “ask everyone to believe in themselves and always trust your instincts.” So coming back to my earlier question: Could Serena have accepted the offer to join Joker’s army? No. Absolutely not. She is filled with love and self-assurance.