Reviewed by: Shannon Hammell
Starring: Olivia Hussey, Leonard Whiting, Milo O'Shea, Michael York | Directed by: Franco Zeffirelli | Produced by: John Bradbourne, Richard B. Goodwin, Anthony Havelock-Allan | Written by: Franco Brusati, Maestro D'Amico and Franco Zeffirelli, from a play by William Shakespeare | Distributor: Paramount
I am a fan of William Shakespeare’s works and his play, “Romeo and Juliet” is not an exception. This film conveys the human nature behind Shakespeare’s much-loved tragedy. It is one of my favorite films and I have seen it more times than I can count. It’s a great film but it does have its share of brief nudity, references to sex, violence, and some profanity.
We all know the story. We’ve been forced to read the play in our freshman year of high school. And yes, this film has been shown in high school as a learning tool. The play unfolds as two rival, upper-class families, the Capulets and the Montagues, get into a public brawl, again (according to the Prince that’s in charge, it’s been the third time they’ve been fighting in public).
Like the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Capulets and the Montagues have been in a family feud longer than Richard Dawson hosted the game show with the same name. Romeo and Juliet, the offspring of the rivaling families, meet at a party, fall in love, get engaged, marry, and consummate the marriage all in one week. Of course, it’s a secret to everyone except Juliet’s nurse (Shakespearean equivalent of a nanny) and Friar Laurence, the man who weds the two star-crossed lovers.
The film is full of spirituality, mainly of the Catholic worldview, which might be offensive to some Christians that view this denomination as an un-Biblical perspective. People make mention of “going to shrift,” or meeting with a cleric for confession of sins. Characters like Friar Laurence and Juliet’s nurse “cross” themselves as a way of prayer.
What’s good about this film is that Romeo and Juliet don’t go to bed together until after they have been married. Friar Laurence explains to Romeo that marriage is more than just making love, kissing, and whispering sweet nothings and that marriage takes work, but his words fall upon deaf ears.
It also might be questionable to some due to the brief nudity in the film, which is a brief shot of Romeo and Juliet in bed after their wedding night. There is no actual sex in the film and the nudity in that scene implies what happened the night before. Sexual comments are made by Juliet’s nurse and Romeo’s crude-minded friend, Mercutio. During the famous balcony scene, Romeo and Juliet engage in some rather passionate kissing. In the same scene, Juliet dons a dress that reveals quite a lot of cleavage. Violence is not as rampant but not appropriate for kids under 13. Profanity is rare and people use what we would call “Shakespearean insults.”
Don’t be fooled by the MPAA rating on the video cover. It is rated “PG” (by the standards of the late 60’s) but is more like a “PG-13” by today’s standards. This film is great for Shakespeare fans and appropriate for anyone aged 13 and over but some Christians might find offensive for the reasons mentioned above. It’s a great film and a wonderful adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play that leaves the 1996 MTV version out in the dust. Listen for Laurence Olivier as the narrator of the story (it’s a speaking cameo appearance and we don’t actually see him).