When eight cadets are left behind at an isolated military high school, the greatest romantic drama ever written seeps out of the classroom and permeates their lives…
Release Year: 2011
Rating: 5.8/10 (66 voted)
Critic's Score: 53/100
Stars: Hale Appleman, Seth Numrich, Matt Doyle
When eight cadets are left behind at an isolated military high school, the greatest romantic drama ever written seeps out of the classroom and permeates their lives. Incorporating the original text of 'Romeo and Juliet,' YouTube videos, and lip-synced Indie rock music, Private Romeo takes us to a mysterious and tender place that only Shakespeare could have inspired.
Writers: William Shakespeare, Alan Brown
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books
Release Date: 3 Jan 2011
Filming Locations: SUNY Maritime College, Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
An Entrancing Dreamtime: Shakespeare Himself Would Have Loved This Film
I loved and was entranced by this very beautiful, and beautifully done,
movie. At first I was worried that the use of Shakespeare's original
language was going to feel gimmicky or distracting (as it often has
been in other projects…such as, in my opinion, in the Baz Luhrmann
"Romeo+Juliet" film, which had other charms, to be sure, and I liked it
a lot, but regarding the Shakespearean spoken dialog, I had felt that
neither Leonardo DiCaprio nor Clare Danes, who are certainly otherwise
good actors, had the slightest idea what they were actually saying),
but instead, this film illuminated Shakespeare's language and I feel
that I had rarely heard those words spoken with such beauty, clarity,
and understanding. The actors completely inhabited those lines and from
the powerfully projective strength of their voices, it was obvious to
me that these were very talented and even classically-trained actors.
They all had the physical good looks that makes you think they could
have been cast on looks, alone, and yet to see the actual TALENT they
all had, was rather amazing. A little investigation later revealed that
many, if not all, of them were far more interested in the New York and
London theater scenes than they were in "Hollywood", and this film is
probably not a "Hollywood" film, anyway.
For typical Hollywood film audiences, this film might have been
narratively confusing in several different ways. For example, the
director made the decision to retain the feminine gender pronouns in
the dialog, and yet, despite the fact that this movie was set in an
all-boys military academy, I didn't feel that these words were meant to
be used insultingly or as put-downs, even when spoken to or about those
in "enemy" camps. Nor was their use meant to take on a "drag queen"
type of persona, like "say girl", and "she" this and that. No. These
men were always clearly masculine, and especially so throughout all
their wooing and love-making, and let's underscore that they were young
WARRIORS, so no asking "who is the man and who is the woman in the
relationship", they are both (as were all of them) MEN, okay?
For me, at any rate, it was almost automatic to either ignore the
specificity of the gender pronouns (understanding that the original
Shakespeare was being used without alteration or distortion), or,
perhaps better, to transcend the sexual implications of gender into
their spiritual qualities. For, in truth, it is only those with the
least developed masculinity who are afraid to express love, to be
tender and physically affectionate toward other men, to be caring and
sheltering, for the fear that those qualities will "compromise" their
masculinity (instead of what actually happens, it enhances it). And if
sex, and marriage comes along with it, well, they're sovereign adults
who know their own hearts.
I admit that were some aspects that I didn't quite get, such as why
were these two "camps" enemies? They weren't from rival schools, they
were in the same classrooms and shower rooms, but maybe they were on
rival athletic teams within the school, and, being quite competitive
naturally, any alliance across teams was frowned upon. But I never
really quite got where that conflict came from. (Perhaps
oversimplifying it, I can best think of this in "Harry Potter" terms,
different "houses", that in this film the "Capulet" and "Montague" were
equivalent to "Gryffendor" and "Slitherin".)
I did not pick up on any homophobia; it might have been there or
alluded to or assumed, but I did not think that it specifically was the
love between the two boys, AS two boys, that was, itself, a problem,
and if I am right, then this unquestioned acceptance of that added
quite a bit to the dream-like quality or maybe idealized atmosphere of
the film. For then in the film's "dreamtime," then, they are beyond
that issue (as it is way high time for it to be in our everyday world).
I am willing to accept that my various problems in understanding
certain things indicates my imperceptions rather than failings in the
construction of the film. A subsequent watching (which I am eager to
do) may very well clear up every question.
But, instead of getting lost in the minutia of plot points and
evaluating the correlation of the meaning between the original
Shakespearean love story and a modern-day version set in an all-boys
military school, I think it was much better to merely swim in the
dreamy artistry and beauty of the project as a whole, to enjoy it as
the work of art it is instead of merely as a narrative story.
The two boys, "Romeo" and "Juliet" were fantastic together while
swirling in and speaking to one another Shakespeare's gorgeous words.
It was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I think that Shakespeare,
himself, would have loved this film, and from reading his "Sonnets", I
especially think so! I am also reminded of another of his plays that I
love, "As You Like It", where, in my view, love transcends "gender"
(or, at least, the temporary appearance of gender).
All in all, despite a few minor flaws, this was a very worthwhile film
to see and if you like Shakespeare at all, I think this film will
increase your appreciation of his work (and to see how well it
continues to universally apply), and if you hadn't known the director
and the performers previously, the film introduces you to some
seriously talented professionals whose careers are very much to be kept