Hamlet, A Suit & A Gun: Joe McClean's "The Speech" Reimagines Legendary Play

"THE SPEECH" (2014)
Genre: Drama
Length- 8:22
Company: Ginger Beard
Website: Official

So there's this guy – his name is Hamlet (Barry Finnegan).  His dad is killed, and his mother marries his uncle, who Hamlet suspects of being his father's murderer – and that's just the start of one awful, terrible, no good very bad day.

He doesn't know what to do.  Should he kill his uncle?  Kill himself?

Maybe – possibly – kill everyone in the entire world?

Hamlet walks into the desert with a gun, determined to get to the bottom of this.

TO BE . . . 

“The Speech” is a smart and entertaining new take on William Shakespeare's Hamlet.  To be more specific, it's the entirety of the famous “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy.  This time, it's given a modern update, with a Hamlet wearing a suit and tie while retaining the beauty of Shakespeare's liquid language.

The film is gorgeous to look at courtesy of director Joe McClean and DoP Mike Testin.  “The Speech” opens with some moody shots of the open desert and skyward flashbacks tell the basic story of Hamlet to keep viewers up to speed, all the while appearing and vanishing like ghosts as Hamlet  himself walks purposefully toward the camera.  It's a great shot, and a stirring visual that brings to life Hamlet's internal conflict and prepares us for the one man show that is to come.

Now on to Finnegan.  This man can ACT.  He puts on an incredible show, taking us from the edge of insanity to murderous rage and broken down despair on a second to second basis.  His performance is, simply put, brilliant.

With Testin's continuous flood of striking visuals and moody and yet epic original music by Michael Teoli, there is no way “The Speech” could fail.

You do need to know a little bit about Shakespeare's original Hamlet to fully appreciate this short film, but that's really the only negative side.  It's amazingly directed, incredibly well acted and it looks great and sounds fantastic.

And finally, I leave you with an Interesting bit of trivia: “The Speech” was created as a short film to insert into a longer documentary about the “To Be Or Not To Be” speech as a whole.


Writing: 3.5 / 5.  Shakespeare's lines are legendary and Ginger Beard does a great job of working with a minimalist aesthetic, but it's one man and the desert, and that comes with certain limitations.
Directing: 4 / 5.  McClean pulls out ALL the stops and its his uncanny visual style that makes this film a joy to watch visually, as he seamlessly marries Shakespeare's words with intense, composed images that stir up your emotions.  I particularly LOVED the sideways shot over the carrion's shoulder.  Traditionally, dialogue is told by shots from over the shoulder of each character, so how smart is it that Hamlet speaks, in essence, to death directly, and we mirror that with a dead bird?
Editing: 5 / 5.  Director McClean also edits this film, and he does it perfectly.  Not a single shot is out of place, the pacing is dead on and each shot feeds into the next.  It's a whirlwind performance, all done from a computer monitor, but this critic for one much appreciated his work!
Sound/Music: 4 / 5.   Very much enjoyed Teoli's original score, with woodwinds supplied by Sandro Friedrich.  At the finale, it felt a little too “action film”-esque for me, but otherwise, it's beautiful and moving.
Acting: 5 / 5.   Finnegan's performance is one of the best I've seen in any short film, period.  Add to that solid blink-or-you'll-miss-it performances by the rest of the cast, who fill out Hamlet's remaining characters, and you have an incredibly well acted short.

Final Grade:  4.3 / 5.

I will post more information when “The Speech” becomes available for viewing online, but until then check out the trailer here and DO NOT MISS its screening on  January 17th, 2015 at the Poet's Den Gallery in New York City!

Thanks for reading! I'm a screenwriter and script consultant. Most recently, I've worked with LMC Productions and Mad Antz Films in Australia. I helped mold Goodybag Productions' award winning screenplay "The Teacher" and Michael Maguire's feature length script "The Wolfpack", which is still in development.

Check out my blog and let's get in touch!