Alan Brown’s earnest film Private Romeo is a bold effort indeed. Set in a military academy, a group of boys studying Romeo and Juliet actually live the story. Speaking almost exclusively in Shakespeare’s verse, even as they spar on the basketball court or record their own music videos, they live the text of the play. But no matter how good the cast is (and they are very, very good) or how timeless the story, it’s still an awfully big stretch to shoehorn the play’s lines into Brown’s chosen context. We are meant to forgive the fact that frequently, the lines and the setting just don’t match up, but that’s an awful lot to ask of an audience. Just because Brown wants us not to wince every time “Juliet” refers to his contemporary friend as “Nurse” doesn’t mean that we don’t. Just because we are asked to ignore the fact that there are no Capulets and Montagues to create the central conflict doesn’t mean we will. Yes, the well-trodden scenes of blossoming love benefit from a fresh perspective, at least to start, and Matt Doyle and Seth Numrich as the lovers generate some real heat. But the film as a whole plays more like a school thesis than a fully realized piece.
Private Romeo will screen at Outfest on Friday, July 15.
-- EDDIE SHAPIRO