Written by Yosra Osman


Rated or Dated: Romeo + Juliet

Watching blood-spattered epic Macbeth sent Yosra Osman back to her favourite Shakespeare adaptation to see how it has stood up.

Juliet and Romeo in a swimming poolWhat and why: It’s Shakespeare with Leonardo DiCaprio and Radiohead.

I doubt that’s quite enough explanation. A couple of weeks ago I went to see Macbeth and it had me thinking about other big-screen adaptations of Willy Shakespeare. The first thing I pictured was Claire Danes with some angel wings and some shocking Hawaiian shirts. Of course, Romeo + Juliet!

We all know the story, but the ‘+’ is not the only slight modification that Baz Luhrmann decides to roll with. His take is an epic feast for the eyes, where Verona becomes Verona Beach and Mercutio is a black drag queen. All to the sound of The Cardigans and Des’ree. You go, Baz, dare to dream.

meeting at the fishtankRated or dated: I am not going to pretend for a fraction of a second that I don’t love this film. It is divisive; there are those who love it for its innovative and adventurous approach, others who consider it a car crash which mutilates the original text. I am very much team A: there is frankly no point in making a Shakespeare film if you’re not going to attempt something different. There have been too many adaptations to simply stick to the same old love story.

Baz Luhrmann takes the story and very much makes it his own from the first second: skyscrapers and helicopters, shootouts at petrol stations – it’s verging on outrageous but it’s awesome. Plus visually the film is a triumph: colourful, dramatic and spectacularly in your face. The party scene shows just the kind of party I will hold when I have a mansion to myself: wigs, dance routines and all.

Party preparationsBut in all seriousness, I realised just how well the film still holds up when I was doing a workshop with some French teenagers on Shakespeare. They were, as you might expect, completely uninterested, moaning that it was hard enough learning English without having to learn the ‘ancienne’ version. Before they lost the will to live, I brought out my old DVD.

For half the girls, Leonardo DiCaprio was all I needed to win them over, but safe to say they were all left quite inspired when seeing Shakespeare’s language among all the pomp and circumstance, set to a pretty incredible soundtrack. Soon I had them re-enacting scenes, using the words they were quick to blast when I first dared utter the Bard’s name. It was like magic.

Romeo + Juliet is now almost 20, but as the camera races around a tableau of striking images, and Danes and DiCaprio perfectly play the vulnerable star-crossed lovers, I can’t help but still be in awe. Do I bite my thumb at it? Hell no, it is RATED all the way.


  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions