Love knows no boundaries, but same-sex attraction in an all boys military academy is a tough drill. When eight cadets are left behind from a training exercise, love and trouble abound at McKinley Academy in Private Romeo, a suspenseful and sensual retelling of a classic tale.
The story begins in the classroom with the cadets reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but the storyline escapes the confines of the classroom and becomes the lens through which the boys live out the ensuing drama. The characters are soon revealed as their classical counterparts, with rival cliques acting as the warring houses of Capulet and Montague. Audiences will gush at the star-crossed lovers’ first kiss, but their encounter leaves each longing for more. The text takes on new meaning as our man Juliet and his Romeo follow their hearts, oblivious to the sidelong glances and smirks of their fellow soldiers. As the war between the two houses boils over, all of these handsome cadets are pulled into the turmoil of forbidden love.
Writer-director Alan Brown (O Beautiful) uses original dialogue sparingly but to good effect, letting Shakespeare’s original words address the issues confronting today’s gay youth. Brown cast only Shakespeare trained actors, and it shows. Mature acting from the entire ensemble keeps the story fresh and modern, especially Hale Appleman’s riveting turn as the film’s Mercutio. Matt Doyle and Seth Numrich, currently performing in acclaimed play War Horse at Lincoln Center, give brilliant performances as the star-crossed lovers, sparking with chemistry and connection. –Frameline
A re-telling of Romeo and Juliet starring two male army cadets, set against the backdrop of rival frats and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The concept is more interesting than the execution, which sees a lot of the text kept intact, making an uneasy transferal into the modern-day milieu - the sight of buff young men, buzz-cuts and all, eloquently reciting Shakespeare, isn’t exactly the most believable one, often taking one out of the performance. Unevenly adapted and paced within that.