A working theater actor faces a great opportunity: she’s cast as Lady Macduff in a high-profile director’s production of “the Scottish play.”
But the process of staging and rehearsing the play proves problematic and increasingly violent, as the visionary director proves unpredictable, moody and even abusive.
His personality is big — even almost comically ridiculous at times — and the cast and crew at first see his behavior as a necessary evil of creative genius, often smiling and nodding politely in response to his storm of tantrums, invective and outlandish requests.
But soon the protagonist hits a breaking point and faces a difficult choice — one that proves heavy, powerful and brave.
Writer-director Sunday Emerson Gullifer’s incisive, intelligent drama explores the intersections of power, creativity, collaboration and genius. Through luminous yet sharp black-and-white cinematography and a remarkably well-paced and smart script, the story portrays a milieu where artistic idealism seemingly rules, grand “art” is created and profound truths are meant to be expressed.
But there are costs to be paid, and often human collateral that results in the achievement of someone’s grand vision. Those costs are often occluded in the final result, seen or heard by the audience.
The film’s performances are excellent, not only bringing Shakespeare’s text to life but also the difficult, suppressed emotions of the actors dealing with a difficult director. It can be stressful to watch the director Helmut inflict abuse and cruelty (sometimes via the actors he direct) but the film also takes pains to show how this particular slice of the world rationalizes and normalizes problematic words and actions.
Being subsumed to the vision of the director, the actors and personnel are not in a position to set boundaries that are violated in small, passive-aggressive and then more outright ways. As the film grows increasingly ominous — the camerawork gets more agitated, and the sound design grows subtly brooding and dark — the film’s main character faces a internal fork in the road, and makes her unusual climactic choice, at what is likely great professional cost.
“Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” could be framed as a #MeToo film, but it was made well before the revelations of abuse of power that peppered much of the news in 2018. It examines what it means to make art, and perhaps poses the question of the need to create a sense of safety and care in order to take true creative risks. But even for those who aren’t artists, it captures the journey it takes to summon the courage and bravery to speak out and stand up for yourself in the face of pressure, convention and unspoken assumptions.