on 16 July 2012
I LOVE this movie. I loved it the first time I watched it, and I've loved it even more each of the three times I've watched it since then; it continues to astonish me.
The adaptation of Romeo and Juliet to an all-boys' military academy is very effective, and Seth Numrich (Sam/Romeo) and Matt Doyle (Glenn/Juliet) have the most electrifyingly romantic scenes I've seen in a long time - maybe ever. Hale Appleman (Josh/Mercutio) is riveting, the best actor in a very gifted cast (all of whom are young New York theatre actors who had prior experience with Shakespeare on stage).
Familiarity with Romeo and Juliet will help a lot in following the fast-moving and sometimes chaotic story, and multiple viewings are well worth the time and effort.
Many people who don't like Private Romeo just don't like Shakespeare, which is understandable in a generation raised on reality TV and crap like Avatar and the superhero/action movie that gets remade under a different title several times every year.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, serious devotees of Shakespeare may have a problem with the liberties taken, not only in the male Juliet but in the slightly changed ending; but they cannot fault the amazing spirit of this movie - Shakespeare would be writing an even more glowing review if he were here. For people who love Shakespeare but are okay with free adaptations and low budgets, this is about as good as it gets. Even intelligent straight people may like it.
The "balcony" scene is especially glorious, the most perfect mating of language and feeling I have ever seen; but all four or five of their love scenes are revelations. I wish I had a hundred stars to lavish on this most excellent little movie.
(People who see elements of the defunct "don't ask - don't tell" policy of the US military are projecting their own issues onto the movie, which contains not even the slightest hint of homophobia. The fact that both the lovers are male is in no way the cause of any conflict in Private Romeo. Somewhat as in Shakespeare, it's a rivalry between cliques in the school and has nothing whatsoever to do with the sex of the lovers.)
on 24 May 2012
"Private Romeo"(inventive and apt title)is a lovely film, in fact one of the best films of this genre that I have seen. It is based on Shakespeare's drama but the viewers are also introduced to a second love story. The actors are overall very professional and convincing. The chemistry between Matt Doyle(Juliet) and Seth Numrich(Romeo) is truly amazing. This film is definitely a "must buy". I am certain that you will enjoy it and never forget it.
on 7 August 2012
A dream for ever and ever. To have "Romeo and Juliet" performed the way it was at the time of Elizabeth and the Globe Theatre, only with men and boys. But dream in the dream, let the boys be boys and not disguised boys, boys in drag, drag queens of sorts. What would happen if...?
Alan Brown has just done it. And he pushed his boyization of the play to the farthest point possible. Late teenagers in a military academy, or rather prep school, cadets who want to go to West Point all of them. Not only do the young men play all the roles but they play them with the necessary emotion and force. Romeo and Juliet who are two young men of 17 years of age really live their love as if they were in love, because they are in love, at least they are telling us with their tears, with their voices, with their bodies at all levels of nudity, though nothing frontal, that they are in love and that they spent the night before the lark sings nude in the same bed, spooning one against the other one in the other.
We are supposed to be moved by that love and by the hostility it reveals in some of these cadets, but there the film is discrete. No one dies, no one is really wounded, but the fights are real fights since cadets have some experience and training at close combat. And the atmosphere of the academy, though deserted since we only have a dozen cadets left, all the others being out on some field exercise, is reconstructed with small details here and there: the reveille, the flag going up and down, the roughness of an all male community, the showers and the washrooms, the two non-commissioned officers looking after the dozen abandoned cadets and making them march through an empty yard.
But that's not the real point. We just have to believe it is real and then the love story it tells is also real and Romeo and Juliet are really in love and they really make love on their last night.
The best part, and I am not going to tell you the final twist and the dreadful poison they use to close the show with some surreal event, is the end and Juliet rises from the dead and sings a song that is so true, so powerful, that comes from so far away, 1913, music by James V. Monaco and lyrics by Joseph McCarthy, sung by Matt Doyle who had been such a moving Juliet and is now a charming resuscitated Juliet. That's a beautiful idea that counterbalances the Renaissance beauty of the Pilgrim Sonnet with some modernity. Emotion I guess is in that union of William Shakespeare and Joseph McCarthy in an inspiring trans-gender film, or should I say trans-genre?
You made me love you
I didn't want to do it
I didn't want to do it
You made me want you
And all the time you knew it
I guess you always knew it
You made me happy sometimes
You made me glad
But there were times, baby
You made me feel so bad
You made me cry for
I didn't want to tell you
I didn't want to tell you
I want some love
That's true, yes I do
Indeed I do, you know I do
Give me, give me, give me what I cry for
You know you've got the kind of kisses
That I die for
You know you made me love you
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
on 25 September 2012
In the wake of DADT this adaption seems even more relevant than I expect it was originally intended.
Set in a military academy of young cadets, who in an open class are reading the Shakespearian play "Romeo and Juliet", one is introduced to the characters as they voice their respective parts. The story then blurs realities as the characters become themselves, with Romeo developing an intense affection and love for Juliet. The all male cast does not shy from the challenge of remaining faithful to one of William Shakespeare's most celebrated plays, and even though the female parts are played by men, there is never any confusion. If anything the hidden nature of their "unaccepted love" becomes a perverse metaphor that pervades the story though out. The two houses (Capulets and the Montagues) could be representative of many modern day realities, where normative society rejects alternative love for a variety of both spoken and unspoken reasons. In fact Shakespeare's words have a chilling resonance in them, when considered in light of the "gay love" between Privte Romeo and his Juliet...... "Whose misadventured piteous overthrows, Do with their death bury their parents' strife."
What comes to the for is that the "ancient grudge" (homophobia) pervades in an older world, where the young have little place, except to experience that prejudice on a daily basis. Whilst aware of the feelings many have in regards to their love, Romeo and Juliet are damned to pursue it. What evolves is a tender love story, fraught with modern angst. Any gay man who has dared to love, and allow himself to be loved in return, will know of the inner wars and outward battles that result from such a place.
The movie is extremely well acted, with some of the lessor parts being exceptional. Here special mention must be given to Hale Appleman who plays Mercutio, and Chris Bresky who plays Juliet's nurse.
The director himself says it best on the official web site: "Though Romeo and Juliet is usually interpreted as a romantic tale of young love thwarted by a family feud, recent re-readings convinced me that it is actually a much more modern, and relevant story about sexual identity and desire pitted against society and its institutions; about personal freedom and rights versus authority. As a gay man and an artist, frustrated by the political battles, and inaction, over gay equality, and by the heart-breaking epidemic of gay bullying, I thought Shakespeare would be the perfect vehicle for exploring these issues."
Indeed it is, and what a way of illustrating that frustration, political battle, and frustration.......often ignored, or understated by those that would seek to resurrect the institutions and beliefs of the past.
Some may find the movie a little long, and confusing at first. In the end however, it all falls into place and makes one think about its message long after the title credits have ended.
on 24 December 2012
A fascinating and very well acted 'play' on the play Romeo and Juliet. It is a bit like Beau Travail, which is based on Billy Budd.
It is reviewed by others as a gay film, but it isn't really - this is acting - btw when performed at the time it was written Shakespeare would have used an all male cast, so this is not so different. A really engrossing film - a reasonably good knowledge of Romeo and Juliet will help.
All the actors are theatre actors and so the acting of the play is very good. Extras including director commentary are excellent.
on 29 July 2012
If you're a fan of the type of queer cinema that has several screaming gay clones, poor acting and with the occasional flash of genitalia just to appease us gay men, then this film is probably not for you!! On the other hand, if you like a challenging drama, read on.
I'm not a massive fan of Shakespeare, but I like some of his stuff and having done several plays at school (about a hundred and fifty years ago!) I would say that it helps a little to understand his rhythms and cadences. It's not necessary though as you soon get into the feel of the play/film.
It basically shows a love story between two cadets, linked together by their reading of "Romeo and Juliet" in the military classroom whilst the other cadets in the academy are off on a training exercise. This is perhaps the flimsiest part of the plot, but look beyond this and you will be richly rewarded. Very soon, all the cadets are acting out the play in real time and the complex relationships between the main protagonists are exposed for all to see. This 'alternate Shakespearean universe' is masking the real relationship developing between Sam & Glenn and the hostility that is growing towards them from some of their colleagues, along with the support they get from others.
The one thing I didn't like was the lip-syncing, which I personally thought was unnecessary and just got in the way of the narrative. I see what the director was trying to do, in bringing the story into the 21st century and using the lyrics to move it along, but these parts fell flat with me. That said, they aren't that long and don't get in the way too much.
One other reviewer mentioned the liberties taken with the end of the film. I don't agree that this was a bad thing. I won't spoil the ending and tell you what happens, but for me, I don't see any other ending that could have been more fitting. This was the time when fiction and reality came together, as it had to at some point. It will leave you wanting more.
This was an intelligent and generally well-thought out film. At times, I found myself with a lump in my throat at the sheer beauty of the words being delivered by two guys on screen and would heartily recommend this film to anyone.
on 27 April 2016
A clever retelling of Romeo & Juliet set within the closeted confines of a military academy for young cadets. While the drama of the star-crossed lovers is played out in the classroom, Sam/Romeo and Glenn/Juliet find themselves falling in love.
This is beautifully made, with some real stand out performances, Hale Appelman's Queen Mab speech is superbly done, an evocative paean to this mysterious creature but also a perfect demonstration of Mercutio's narcotic state and a perhaps repressed desire to impress Romeo.
Appelman also gets the meaty dream speech and a powerful confrontation with Bobby Moreno's Tybalt in the gym which gives the hard edged conflict between "warring" factions necessary for this play.
However, the heart of the film is the romance between Seth Numan and Matt Doyle's two young cadets, falling head over heels without thought of the consequences of their actions at a time when DADT was still very much in full force (at the time the film was made). They come together for a brief moment, are separated due to conflict and pass out from a cocktail of drugs purloined from Friar Laurence in the chemistry lab (a nicely understated performance from Adam Barrie).
But the real star of this film is the devotion to the original material. The Bard is not tampered with except to move dialogue around to place in different acts. While roaming down a corridor looking for a hiding Romeo, Benvolio (Sean Hudock) and Mercutio still speak of trees not classroom doors, Juliet remains a she, as does Nurse (a comedic tour de force from Chris Bresky).
With Charlie Barnett rounding out the cast of just eight as the cadet left in charge/Prince Escalus, Alan Brown's direction gives this film a lilting feel which ebbs and flows around the darker side of Shakespeare's play. Alongside the Original score composed by Nicholas R. Wright are also a couple of top tunes from indie band Bishop Allen.
on 24 January 2013
I love this film. I think my favourite thing about it is that it doesn't focus on the bashing, the hatred or the pain and struggle of being gay... It's just a story about two people who love each other so much that they will do anything to be together. Shakespeare told in a really simple and uncomplicated way. Moving and a complete pleasure to watch.
on 23 May 2012
.....Brotherhood and Love....and not about the bashing....and not about the hate....and not about the struggle. Because...I think we need more films like that....I think we need more things saying that Love is Universal....and it is beautiful, no matter what. And I'm really proud to be a part of this project."
(( These words are the heartfelt expressions of Matty Doyle (Glenn / Juliet), in preparing to give an encore rendition of the film ending, "You Made Me Love You", at the following YouTube(U.S.) link: matt doyle you made me love you ))
Bringing life and passion to a 400+ year old play is a gutsy, yet potentially tricky endeavor. In doing so, Director Alan Brown had a "Nice" idea (he's had them before). BUT...will raw Shakespeare (let alone with a cast not-trained-in-Shakespeare) pull in everyday Gay viewers around the world? Time and return on expenses will tell. Though I personally hunger for the success of this film work, that "BUT" remains a potential killer for his efforts.
Still and all, if anything can keep this film work alive...and long remembered...it will the touching, yet sizzling Love Story given us by Seth Numrich (Sam / Romeo) and Matt Doyle (Glenn / Juliet). They hold absolutely nothing back in both their emotional and physical lovemaking. Their scenes together are oh-so-easy for this reviewer to play, and replay again.
BUT, now I must be honest...and say that about the basics of this Story---the basics of Shakespeare---I am ill-equipped to give you more. Yet, there is someone....someone from the several existing reviews of this film, whose deeply descriptive and perceptive words say it all. And those words belong to Rachel Schweissinger, and can be found in her May 19, 2012 review at Amazon.com(U.S.), entitled: "Outstanding, Heartbreaking, Haunting, Beautiful". Do yourself a favor and read them.
PS--Thank you, Matt Doyle, for bringing the now lost to us, and great, Harry Nilsson (1941 - 1994) version of "You Made Me Love You" (A Little Touch Of Schmilsson In The Night And More) into today's world, in such a heartfelt way.
on 17 April 2014
I was a bit skeptical about translating the bard like this but it really works.
The love story seems passionate and true and all the surrounding characters are really well formed. I'd say you need to know the play to watch this which is the only downfall to a really good film.