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Movie Review

Romeo and Juliet

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
CONTRIBUTOR

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Romance Drama Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 58 min.
Year of Release:
2013
USA Release:
October 11, 2013 (wide—450+ theaters)
DVD: February 4, 2014
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Relativity Media

TRUE LOVE—What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

secret wedding/marriage

SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

Featuring: Hailee SteinfeldJuliet
Douglas Booth … Romeo
Paul GiamattiFriar Laurence
Stellan SkarsgårdPrince of Verona
Damian Lewis … Lord Capulet
Laura Morante … Lady Montague
Tomas Arana … Lord Montague
Kodi Smit-McPhee … Benvolio
more »
Director: Carlo Carlei
Producer: Amber Entertainment
Echo Lake Productions
more »
Distributor: Relativity Media

“The most dangerous love story ever told”

No doubt everyone is familiar with the classic tale, as old as time, of Romeo and Juliet. For those unfamiliar, though, the story follows two families, the Montagues and the Capulets, by far the wealthiest families in the land of Verona. For quite some time, these families have been at war, and the animosity between both parties is very clear. Enter Romeo, a beloved Montague. While attending a party to proclaim his “love” to Rosaline (a Capulet) at a Capulet party, he is struck when he encounters Juliet (the daughter of Lord Capulet). I guess you can say that it becomes love at first sight, and the two pledge their love and secretly marry under Friar Laurence’s blessing, without either family knowing. It’s a tale of romance, hate, anger, and fate in a story of how love truly conquers all.

William Shakespeare is hailed as one of the greatest prolific writers in the history of literature (and of theater). His stories have inspired future writers for hundreds of years and continues to serve as required reading in schools, colleges, and non-academic settings. Many are familiar with his use of poetry and the vocabulary he chooses to dig into the hearts of his audience and invoke emotion. Because of these elements, he was and is still deemed one of the most iconic writers in the world.

One of his most well known, and might I say numerously adapted, tales is that of “Romeo and Juliet,” in both film and theater. Some adaptations have failed audiences, while others have been deemed appropriate and admirable.

This year’s adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, while very small in its theatrical release, in my eyes was a really well made adaptation. First and foremost, the performances are powerfully displayed by every character in this film, using Shakespeare’s poetry as a platform for their fine performances. The scenery really impressed me as well. Beautiful shots of ceiling paintings, statues, and architecture of the time are simply mind-blowing. The camera work is just right, and the music is also appropriate in this film. I was really impressed with the quality of this adaptation, but then again, I may stand alone.

Objectionable Content

Violence: Moderate and mainly limited to sword fights between Mercutio, Tybalt, Romeo and Paris (there are scenes where main characters are killed) and other Capulet and Montague members. There is one scene where Lord Capulet, in his anger, pushes Juliet onto her bed. Romeo uses a lethal poison to commit suicide.

Profanity: Profanity included God and Jesus’ name taken in vain (once each). Shakespeare’s poetry may very well have included other profanity (for it’s time) that I may have been unfamiliar with, so I apologize if I have not included it in this review.

Sex/Nudity: Romeo mentions Juliet’s breasts two times (poetically), and one character mentions using a woman for pleasure. Romeo and Juliet have several scenes of passionate kissing, and one scene of sexual intercourse (the camera fades before the act can take place. The most we are shown is Juliet undressing Romeo’s shirt, and then Romeo, half naked, undressing one part of Juliet’s clothing before the fade), however this scene takes place after they have married.

Other Content: Herbs are used to put Juliet into an unconscious sleep, as well as used when Romeo drinks a vial to commit suicide.

Spiritual Lesson

There are many themes that surround Romeo and Juliet. The main theme, though, is that of hate. Hate is an emotion, evolving from sin, that can consume us and lead to even more dangerous thoughts, actions, and emotions such as revenge. Some even go as far as to say that hate, when left unchecked, becomes a form of murder, as you wish the person did not exist at all. The Capulets and Montagues held onto hate for far too long, and it destroyed their families, while losing too many lives in the process. The beauty is that, in the end, they learn from this and make amends. As Christians, Jesus tells us to “love our enemies, as ourselves” regardless of their past or present actions and calls us to forgive, that if “we retain the sins of one, they are retained.” It’s a difficult task, no doubt, but it is one that must be upheld in order to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

I grew up, as many did, having to read “Romeo and Juliet” in high school. It’s a beloved classic and there are, no doubt, many adaptions of it. This recent adaptation, I felt, was well done, despite critics’ disapproval. Strong performances, beautiful scenery, and an excellent score make this film one that I can happily recommend to teens and adults.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Mild


See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—A beautiful big screen adaptation of one of the jewels of English literature. This movie is superbly acted, expertly directed, and visually magnificent. Is so refreshing to watch a movie that is good because its good. I’ll let you think about that. See it soon. It’s romantic, it’s deep, and it’s lovely to look at and behold on all levels.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Larry C, age 52 (USA)
Positive—It’s the classic love story told in a classic, breathtaking, and professional way. This film really hit the mark with its beautiful soundtrack, its stunning sets, the historic costumes, and some mostly solid acting by actors who can pull off the Shakespearian lingo pretty well. Whether or not the film stayed true to Shakespeare’s original script, I cannot say. I haven’t read “Romeo and Juliet” for several years and do not remember details, but the plot of the movie seemed to follow the major plot points that I remember from reading the play.

According to some articles I have read, however, the script lacks much of Shakespeare’s original dialogue. At the same time, like the original play, this movie examines the consequences of making rash decisions, of being ruled by passion, and of passing on a legacy of hate. Although this movie is a poor adaptation, I would still consider it to be a good movie. Even though the passionate love between Romeo and Juliet is very frustrating at times when you consider how young they are and how thoughtless they can be, the film handles their romance tastefully. more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Leah Hickman, age 19 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—All I can do is compare this to the 1968 release directed by Franco Zeffirelli and stars the beautiful Olivia Hussey as the lovestruck Juliet. (She also played Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the epic Jesus of Nazareth, the definitive movie of the Christ story in my opinion.) I believe she is a much better actress in the delivery of the Shakespearean prose. And the rest of the characters over all are more memorable.

A word of caution however, there is slight nudity in this version, but it would easily fall into a PG-13 rating. ***SPOILER*** Director Carlo Carlei in this new version, had an interesting take on the ending death scene where Romeo finds Juliet seemingly dead in her tomb. Romeo takes the poison, but Juliet awakens before Romeo’s poison takes effect. I actually liked the way that played out. ***END SPOILER***

Biblically speaking, the problem with this famous tragedy is the seemingly glorifying or romanticizing of suicide when things don’t go your way. According to Scripture: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Cor. 6:19, 20 NIV). While this scripture is mainly referring to sexual immorality, it also reminds us that we are not here to serve ourselves but Christ. We are created for God’s pleasure, not our own.

While that may sound harsh, life is a lesson of learning to give, not take. When we learn to find joy in the service of God, no matter what it may cost our Earthly bodies, we will then truly know what it means to be Christlike.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jeff Leslie, age 57 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
—I was initially interested in viewing this latest cinematic incarnation of William Shakespeare’s timeless tragedie (I’m using the 16th century spelling of the word), though I had my reservations, as the last film version was a modernized cr*p-fest. I was therefore very happy to read that this one would be a traditional version, ala George Cukor’s beautifully directed and Franco Zeffirelli’s lush versions of the tragedie. However, a few weeks before the film’s release in the U.S., I read that the film doesn’t really use Shakespeare’s dialog at all (the trailer should have been a red flag for my enthusiasm, and it sort of was).

I read PluggedIn’s review, and apart from the lines in the trailer which are definitely NOT the Bard’s words (“What have I done, but murdered my tomorrow?,” “Romeo! Come settle with me, boy!,” “Do you believe we’ll ever meet again?” “I do not doubt it,” etc.), someone compares something or someone to “A b**** in heat.” That was never in Shakespeare’s play, at all. I’ll see the movie when it comes On Demand for free.
—D, age 27 (USA)

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