Private Romeo

Movie review by
Grace Montgomery, Common Sense Media
Private Romeo Movie Poster Image
Edgy Shakespeare update with all-male cast has sex, drugs.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 98 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The play promotes peace, which is emphasized in this version by Mercutio bandaging Tybalt's hands after they fight. Positively portrays homosexual relationships.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boys at the school are shown breaking the rules, disobeying their superiors, fighting, drinking, and doing drugs.

Violence

A feud leads to fighting, but in this version it's only a fistfight, not a fight to the death. Suicide is also a theme but with an outcome different from that of the original play.

Sex

Romeo and Juliet (two men) kiss, make out, and are shown naked in bed together (though covered with a sheet). Mercutio and Romeo trade sexual puns, sometimes accompanied by sexual gestures, such as Mercutio grabbing his crotch. Mercutio gives Romeo longing glances. Military cadets are frequently shirtless or only wearing a towel.

Language

"S--t" twice, and a character flips his middle finger.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cadets cut up prescription pills, drink beer at a party. One student prepares a potion for Juliet to drink, which appears to be some sort of homemade drug.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Private Romeo is a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, set in an all-male military school. It includes a mix of dialogue directly from the play, some modern language, and lip-synching to indie rock, and viewers should know that it's not a faithful retelling of the play. As it's an all-male cast, Romeo and Juliet are both men and are shown kissing and naked in bed (covered with a sheet). There's also some semi-erotic dialogue between Mercutio and Romeo (straight from the Bard and full of puns about pricking each other with "swords"). There's also some violence (a fistfight) and talk of suicide, though this version tones down the violence of the traditional play with some significant plot changes. Language includes "s--t." Cadets cut up prescription pills and drink beer at a party.

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What's the story?

A small group of cadets at a military school is left alone for a long weekend as their superiors and the remaining students go on a military drill. As they continue with their classes and routine, including reading Romeo and Juliet, the students start to find the play overtaking their lives as they begin to recite the dialogue and embody the characters. As love begins to bloom between two cadets (who dub each other Romeo and Juliet), they have to deal with jealousy, feuds, and how they can maintain their love once Romeo is banished (or, in this case, expelled).

Is it any good?

Although there are some serious flaws, the acting is so superb in this retelling that it's worth watching for the performances alone. The actor who plays Mercutio (Hale Appleman), in particular, is mesmerizing in PRIVATE ROMEO, and Romeo (Sam Singleton) and Juliet (Matt Doyle) are not far behind. They give so many nuances to their lines and perform with such passion that it's a bit jarring when the scene changes to the cadets blandly reading the play in class.

If this were simply a faithful retelling with this all-male cast, it may have been less avant-garde (the play was originally performed with only men, after all), but it would have been much easier to follow. Actors play multiple characters, large chunks of dialogue from the play are missing, and the feud between Capulets and Montagues is never successfully translated to this modern milieu. But mature teens or adults looking for an edgy, interesting introduction to Shakespeare may just get hooked on the Bard after watching these compelling performances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the love story portrayed in Romeo and Juliet. How realistic do you think it is? Can someone fall in love with someone after one glance?

  • What do you think of this version of Romeo and Juliet? Do you think it's successful? Have you seen other versions of Romeo and Juliet?

  • Why do we continue to read Shakespeare? Do you think his plays are still important? Why, or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love classic tales

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