Innovative adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' set in an all-male military academy. Following on from the success of Baz Luhrmann's 'Romeo and Juliet' (1996), which transplanted the original dialogue of the play into a modern setting and aesthetic, the film sticks closely to the Shakespearean text while telling of the love, loss and conflict between a group of young men. Eight male cadets, including Josh (Hale Appleman) and Ken (Charlie Barnett), inhabit the military school and find their lives fused with the spirit of Shakespeare's most famous tragedy.
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.
"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.
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.)