Romeo & Juliet (TV Movie 1978) Poster

(1978 TV Movie)

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Romeo, Romeo, who cast you as Romeo?
Nozz19 October 2001
At times I wasn't sure if this was Romeo and Juliet or Dudley Do-Right and Juliet. Sometimes Romeo seemed wooden, sometimes awkward, sometimes trying woodenly to be awkward. He seemed much older than Juliet, too, which would be interesting if it were part of the play but it isn't.

Much more affecting were Juliet herself, the Nurse, and old Capulet. Some of the staging was notably well handled, including the whole Capulet ballroom scene. I couldn't help comparing Mercutio and Friar Laurence unfavorably with their Zeffirelli counterparts.

It was nice to get more of the dialogue than some other film versions preserve, but on the other hand some of the cuts took away familiar lines and such cuts are always jarring.
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Alan Rickman is good, but others are too
Peter J8 August 2000
I was in high school when this was first broadcast on public television. I liked it better than what was then the latest movie version, because the movie cut out too many lines. I'll admit that Alan Rickman made an excellent Tybalt, but that's not the only memorable performance in that production. Michael Hordern was fine as Capulet. The big surprise for me was Celia Johnson as Juliet's nurse. She was such a wonderful actress that it more than made up for the fact that she was way too old for the part. (It was years later, after her death, I believe, that I saw her in her most famous role in the David Lean movie "Brief Encounter".) It's been over twenty years since I've seen that TV production and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
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Not Good
tonstant viewer3 March 2007
Celia Johnson is good as the Nurse. Michael Hordern is good as Capulet, though it's his usual neighing and whinnying and not a patch on his King Lear. John O'Conor reads the verse well as Friar Laurence though he never takes it anywhere. Alan Rickman is good as Tybalt, in the first of his "yuk" roles that would make him famous. Christopher Strauli's Benvolio is sympathetic.

The sets are pretty, if not stunning as in some of the other BBC Shakespeare's.

And that's it. The rest is weak to dreadful. Rebecca Saire turned 15 during production, and hasn't a clue about how to act Juliet - she opens her eyes real wide and whines every line in exactly the same way. Patrick Ryecart is poorly matched to her, and his self-regard is inexplicable. The Balcony Scene flows smoothly and uneventfully with zero emotional or erotic impact. Their deaths come as a relief. If I had a dagger, I would have offered it to them hours earlier.

Anthony Andrews is unspeakable as Mercutio, a great shock if you remember his fine work in "Brideshead Revisited." He breaks the mirror of Shakespeare's verse into a thousand shards of two or three words each, and then shouts the fragments in as disconnected and unintelligible manner as possible. In this production, Queen Mab abdicates. Awful.

The director, Alvin Rakoff, shows only an intermittent gift of putting the camera where it will show us what we want to see. The opening brawl is notably incoherent. However there is humor when in a later fight, Romeo apparently knees Tybalt right in the cobblers. Tybalt then grabs the offended region. However did that get through?

R&J is a long play. This version is not recommended for classroom use, or much else.
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A performance worthy of the name!
tblack4416 November 2009
I have noted with some surprise the extremely negative criticism of many viewers who have commented on this version of Shakespeare's' famous play, particularly with regard to Patrick Ryecart's portrayal of Romeo. I can see how his performance could be considered wooden but in my opinion he has managed, with some success, to bring about a much more naturalistic depiction of the character.

Certainly, there are times when he should have perhaps brought out more emotion in his performance (such as the ballroom scene) but, for the most part, his understated portrayal works. His Romeo is a complex character whose extreme emotional state is always writhing beneath the surface and bubbles up beautifully when the occasion demands it. Whether it be expressions of rage or love, Ryecart manages to get it right what is perhaps the most faithful film version of this classic tragedy.

Rebecca Saire, who for once has been well cast in a BBC production in terms of her character's age, performed well as Juliet. Sweet yet sensitive, and deeply in love : a classic portrayal in a classical reading of Shakespeare.

In terms of the other memorable cast members, Alan Rickman did a good (but not a great job) as Tybalt, and I think that certain other reviewers have overpraised his performance due simply to his later celebrity. There is more to the character than his being simply broody (something which seems to be Rickman's essential reading of every role he plays). Anthony Andrews was as crazy and eccentric as I imagine Mercutio being; and if there ever was a faithful portrayal of an Elizabethan father, Michael Hordern pulled it off with gusto. Celia Johnson was great as a well-meaning and loving yet overly fussy Nurse.

I enjoyed this production as a faithful version of the text without the overly dramatic nature of later film versions (particularly Luhrmann's). I feel that the director has come as close as possible to a reading that Shakespeare would recognise. An admirable recreation of a beloved classic as ever there was one!
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A Fine Version of Shakespeare's Tragedy!
Sylviastel7 July 2014
Everybody knows the story of William Shakespeare's tragic love affair, Romeo and Juliet. They are young Verona teenagers who fall in love from warring families. The cast is wonderful. Rebecca Saire and Patrick Ryecart are perfectly cast as Juliet and Romeo. Dame Celia Johnson was wonderful as the Nurse. Alan Rickman was great as Tybalt. Sir Michael Hordern has a small role as Lord Capulet. Sir John Gielgud has even a smaller role as the chorus. This is fine and faithful version able to be shown to high school students studying this play as part of the curriculum. The art direction and female costumes are fine. Verona comes alive well. My biggest problem with the male costumes is the tights. The fight sequences look more like the ballet than fights. Maybe it was the style of the times.
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Another good performance of the greatest play ever written
wdavisterry24 September 2012
Rebecca Saire and Patrick Ryecart and quite interesting as the leads. Saire gives a very good interpretation of Juliet and owns her scenes. She is beautiful, and her costumes are affective. Wearing clothing patterned after authentic period costumes adds a lot. She looks a little like Elsa Lanchester in "Bride of Frankenstein" in the heavy full-length dress of the day. Ryecart uses a more contemporary style, along the lines of England in the era of the Beatles and the Stones while remaining intellectually honest. It is unusual now to have a Romeo not be a teen-dream. Saire and Ryecart have some, not a lot of, chemistry. What the actors accomplish is to bring to the fore some of the questions in the plot. Why do they think springing their marriage on their families in the middle of a vendetta will not be received with horror? Or why doesn't Friar Lawrence see the likely outcome? They try to out-Machiavellian the rulers of a renaissance Italian city-state and the outcome is also predicable. The play is not the romantic tragedy it is reputed to be.

Perhaps the production values could have been better if it had not been filmed in the style of a 1970s BBC program. Too many crane shots. The sets are variable. Very good background music in the credits and the musicians in the party scene are playing authentic instruments.

This performance is from the first two seasons of BBC Shakespeare and is shows the original purpose which seemed to be to sell the package to school libraries from class discussion. Later they did more original interpretations of the plays and some of the actors in this are in the later plays; Ryecart, Michael Hordern, and Vernon Dobtcheff are the ones I saw.
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Loved it
davidandpamlee24 November 2004
Saw this Movie in College about 10 Years ago now in a Shakespeare class and Absolutely loved the movie and have been looking for this movie. It's an Old Movie and yes the special effects are not great but is very true to Shakespeare and what you see would be more like what it would have actually been like when Shakespeare wrote the Play. And I believe this is what the Director was trying for and accomplished. A movie true to Shakespeare true nature not a Hollywood version. So in essentially you have almost gone back in time and watch it as if Shakespeare himself was directing it. But your not going to get great special effects so if that what you looking for look more but if your looking for something that has stayed with the Nature and the spirit of Shakespeare this is your movie.
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Passable? Yes. Passionate? Not a bit.
MissSimonetta9 February 2014
While not as atrocious as others have described it, this TV version of Romeo and Juliet leaves much to be desired. That the camera-work is uninspired and the sets are stage-bound does not factor in here, seeing as this is no big budget extravaganza (a la the 1936, 1968, and 1996 adaptations). No, what's lacking are riveting performances, primarily from the lovers themselves.

Patrick Ryecart may be the most passionless Romeo I have ever seen. That he is uncomfortably older than his adolescent leading lady by about a decade is the least of his problems. He is the definition of bland, almost sleepwalking through his scenes, only coming alive during the part where he kills Tybalt in a fit of rage. Rebbecca Saire does better as Juliet, but not by much. Though she is the closest in age to her character than any other screen/TV actress I've ever seen (Saire was 14 at the time of filming, only a year older than Juliet is in the play), her portrayal of the character is too subdued and lacking in sexuality.

Luckily, most of the supporting cast is passable, if not great. There are only two standouts in the line-up: Anthony Andrews is an entertaining Mercutio and a young Alan Rickman makes for a wonderfully loathsome Tybalt.

Honestly, this is probably my least favorite R&J screen adaptation thus far. While not a painful experience, you'd be better served with the 1968 film. Though it does cut some of the text, it's prettier to look at and features more poignant, passionate performances than this lifeless TV movie.
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Fab classical Shakespeare
andy-19785 April 2009
I am bias as I am Shakespeares biggest fan and not a big critic on the various performances because I find every adaptation I see I enjoy because of the variety. Which I think Shakespeare himself would also enjoy the wide different attempts at his works. Who knows what is the correct way to performance these classics. I enjoyed seeing Alan Rickman in hid first TV role. I love the Geilgud voice and his presence. If you are a true Shakespeare fan leave your eyes open and your opinions wide as I truly believe the great man himself would do exactly that 400 years on.

I like all the BBC Shakespeare collection.

Well done the Beeb !
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Alan Rickman is the man
master_d11 February 2000
I watched this in high school and thought it was okay, not great, a little over-acted, but okay. I am reviewing this because I just found out that Alan Rickman plays Tybalt in this. In my opinion Alan plays the role with gusto and power. Not over-acting like the other characters. God bless RickMAN. God bless you for saving this show. Too bad he had to die early...
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an uneven production
mhk111 August 2014
This uneven production includes more of the text than do most productions, but it still omits many lines. Some of the omissions are well-judged abridgments of the tiresome banter between Romeo and his friends or between the servants and the musicians. Other deletions are much more dubious, as we're deprived of some great poetic lines. Some of the excisions in III.i (along with the staging of the sword fights in that scene) have the effect of presenting Tybalt as a less bellicose character than the full text suggests.

The best performances are those of Michael Hordern (Capulet), Celia Johnson (Nurse), Anthony Andrews (Mercutio), Alan Rickman (Tybalt), and Joseph O'Conor (Friar Laurence). None of those performances is impeccable, but each of them is at a high level.

Rebecca Saire (Juliet) is not up to the demands of her role in some of the crucial scenes in the first half of the play, but she improves considerably after a mediocre rendering of the "Gallop apace" soliloquy. Patrick Ryecart (Romeo) is excellent in the bedroom scene, but his performance otherwise ranges from poor in the early parts of the play to mediocre in the later parts. Ryecart too often substitutes expressionless reciting for acting. In the balcony scene he is unintentionally hilarious, as he keeps crashing to the ground after ascending a wall. Moreover, whereas Saire's physical appearance is just right for Juliet, Ryecart's physical appearance is unlikely to set aflutter the heart of any fourteen-year-old girl.

The sword fights are staged more impressively than in any of the other BBC Shakespeare productions, and the sets are generally well crafted. This production on the whole is pretty good, but it could have been excellent if the eponymous characters had been better portrayed.
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Awful acting
Ollie2112 March 2007
Have to admit, this version disgraces Shakespeare upfront! None can act except the nurse who was my fav! Juliet had good skills as a teen but she can't give emotional depth to her lines and we really can never connect to her. She's worse doing the scene when she is contemplating drinking the sleeping potion...god stop whining! I would have poured it in her mouth to shut her up! Anthony Andrews...yikes! Considering his other great movies (Brideshead Revisited, Ivanhoe, Scarlet Pimpernel), he's quite a shocker in this one. And don't get me started on Romeo...puhleasssssee! It's still good to see if you're on the hunt to see every Romeo and Juliet ever made in the history of film. Olivia and Leonard's version is still the best, followed by Leslie Howard's version and then the current Leo and Clare!
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alainenglish27 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Easily the best known of all the Shakespeare plays, it has been seriously let down here. Shoddy direction, stagnant studio work and erratic performances spoil a fine tragedy.

In the town of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues have been feuding for centuries but tragedy is imminent when Romeo (Patrick Rycart), a Montague, falls in love with Juliet (Rebecca Saire), a Capulet. Bloodshed soon erupts...

The studio work, especially in daytime scenes, seriously stagnates the energy of the play. It's a story that, with it's energy, deserves to be shot outdoors. Coupled with this the costumes are hideous, with too many tights and ludicrous codpieces. The stage fighting looks horrendous, with far too much stretching and running around to be engaging.

Patrick Ryecart is too lightweight to be a truly effective Romeo. He manages the character's intensity when the plot gets going but his stately accent and bland, often inexpressive eyes limit his range. It is very hard for the audience to relate to this Romeo. Rebecca Saire is too youthful to be a good Juliet - she captures the character's naiveté but a little more sassiness would have been welcome.

The supporting roles don't fare much better. Joseph O'Connor's Friar Laurence is fine but too many of his best lines have been cut. Anthony Andrews' Mercutio belongs on stage and not on camera. He gurns and gesticulates excessively and looks rather ridiculous as a result. Alan Rickman, underplaying his role, has virtually no presence as Tybalt. He did develop an edge and intensity to deliver some fine screen performances in later years, but that isn't in evidence here. The Prince can be a fine role with his brief appearances but actor Lawrence Naismith fails to give the part any authority on camera. Only Micheal Hordern, in probably his best role in this series, comes out of this with any dignity. His Capulet is well-played and a joy to watch.

See one of the other versions of this story instead.
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Shakespeare Should be Rolling in his Grave
devif26 May 2008
For my first taste of Shakespeare on stage, I cannot believe what these people did to a perfectly good play.

-Let's start off with the good bit, shall we?-

Alan Rickman is alright, although some of his dialog could have been delivered with more feeling. The rest of the actors needed to pull it together.

Romeo, Romeo, whyfore art thou not dead yet, Romeo? The actor, while not only completely wooden and deadpan, could not read his lines with any gusto at all. He was completely out of focus, had difficulty even looking Juliet in the face, and absolutely NO grace with the lines that he was given. Whoever cast him deserves to be punished. Juliet is almost passable, but she gives no depth to her character,and seems to be completely out of touch with the play. Mercutio was incredibly creepy and completely out of character for the entirety of his dialog. Benvolio was unfeeling and mercilessly choppy with his lines.

I was forced to endure this half-baked production of Romeo and Juliet. The acting was stilted and the costumes were nothing short of distracting. I have seen kindergarten puppet shows with more effort put into them. I only wish that i could give this movie a rating of zero.
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Less than passionate love
TheLittleSongbird31 December 2018
'Romeo and Juliet' is one of William Shakespeare's, one of the greatest and most important playwrights that ever lived, most famous plays and also one of my favourites of his and overall. It is such a lovely, powerful story, that is the quintessential depiction of passionate love descending into tragedy perhaps, chock-full of iconic lines and speeches and characters hard to forget.

The available versions of 'Romeo and Juliet' are variable, the best being the Zeffirelli and Leslie Howard versions. Also liked the divisive Castellani version from 1954 although it was very uneven admittedly. Didn't actually care personally for the Baz Luhrmann version, though that is probably not going to go down well with some. Consider this 1978 BBC version, one of the BBC Shakespeare adaptations from the late 70s and early 80s (an interesting series of adaptations/performances but with both hits and misses), one of the weaker available versions of 'Romeo and Juliet' and one of the lesser adaptations of the series. That is not saying that this 'Romeo and Juliet' is terrible, far from it. There are enough assets to make it worth watching. It does though have some severe short-comings that for me were difficult to overlook. A shame because, with such a good supporting cast, it had potential to be one of the better ones on both counts.

Of course there are plenty of good things. It's most of the supporting cast that are the main reason to see it, so good in most cases that it brings the production up more than one star. Michael Hordern plays Capulet with dignity and gusto, for me he was the best of the bunch, and Celia Johnson is a sympathetic and un-fussy nurse. Christopher Strauli is likeable too as Benvolio. The most interesting piece of casting though is Alan Rickman pre-'Die Hard' (a landmark performance in a genre benchmark), who makes for a suitably loathsome Tybalt. John Gielgud is interesting in a small role and Joseph O'Connor performs, if not completely lives, Friar Lawrence very well. Even with the omissions, it is a faithful interpretation, is coherent and flows, the supporting actors clearly having a feel for Shakespeare and with evidence of experience.

Visually, it is not exceptional and somewhat simple, have actually seen worse, but the simplicity works and doesn't look drab or ugly. Appreciate too that it didn't try to have enormous budget-looking production values (which the series didn't have) so the staging and action is not potentially swamped, didn't find it too stage-bound or confined. The costumes are lovely. The photography has an intimacy while having enough room for expansion. The staging has parts that are better than others, the ballroom, fight and tomb scenes fare best, even if the fight scenes are slightly balletic in places.

However, a major problem is the performances of the two leads, a problem so major that it brings the production down significantly. Apart from his rage and upset in the culmination of the big tragic fight scene, which was intensely moving, Patrick Ryecart is rather wooden and was in need of more expression and nuance as Romeo. Rebecca Saire does have the advantage of being the most age appropriate Juliet of all the available versions and shows more emotion than Rycart (she does well in the tomb scene), but her inexperience shows in her mostly bland, wide-eyed and too subdued performance.

Ryecart and Saire's chemistry doesn't properly ignite and the balcony scene completely lacks passion and comes over as very static. Count me in as another person who found that Anthony Andrews doesn't work as Mercutio, he certainly seems to be having fun with the character but he really does overact in especially in the facial expressions that it gets tiring.

On the whole, not a bad production but really could have been better. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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Freedom in love and passion
Dr_Coulardeau4 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The dreadful and dreaded drama had to come sooner or later and it is the twentieth play of that series we watch. And the promise is kept. We shiver at the love and we quiver at the death of these two young people and we have nothing to do except simmer in our empathy and whimper in our impotence.

This play is first of all a marvelous love story and as such it is the brightest and most beautiful play we know. From the very start the star Juliet meets with the meteor Romeo in pure love, a tempestuous love at first sight that needs no explanation and accepts no excuse or no opposition. They are young indeed since Juliet's age is lengthily discussed with plenty of humor from the nurse and some rather nostalgic pleasure from the mother. Juliet is not yet fourteen and as the mother says some ladies of note in Verona at her age are already mothers of a child.

But Shakespeare does not condescend to make that love story in any way lurid. It is witty, as witty as so many sonnets by the same, witty but not bawdy. He brings pilgrims and prayers in the simple gestures of lovers, of hands meeting hands and lips kissing lips, and we can know what we are talking of here because the first scene is just a bawdy scene on the very verge of obscenity in the gross exchanges between the servants of the two houses. Obscenity is in the different between "biting one's thumb" and "biting one's thumb AT someone", equivalent of some F-word in present day English. They are as pure as unblinking eyes and un-twinkling stars. Juliet does not even want to bring the moon into their story because that moon is inconstant, and that is a key to Shakespeare's style and power.

This moon and her three phases (in Shakespearean times it had only three phases), waxing, full and waning, is the most wicked character you can imagine. She is the triple goddess, the thrice crowned goddess, Hecate, goddess of the dead, Selene, goddess of the moon and the night, and Diana, the goddess of daytime, hunting and young animals, life in one word. That triple reference is used over and over and each one of these triplets, triple structures, leads to death and unhappiness. The Montague and their son Romeo are three and one will have to die, and in fact two will. The Capulet and their daughter Juliet are three and one will have to die. And the three women in the Capulet house, the mother, the daughter and the nurse, are the very pot in which the witch's brew of a clandestine unapproved marriage is going to germinate and then explode. And the play had started with the three social brawls and the three street battles caused by each of the two families.

That couple is doomed because there will always be someone in-between the two lovers, good or bad, who will bring doom. The friar marries them in the back of everyone. Paris wants to marry the already married Juliet. Tybalt wants to prevent the relation between Romeo and Juliet. Tybalt and Mercutio will reach death, for Mercutio, when Romeo jumps in-between and Mercutio is killed under the arm (beautiful ambiguity, of Romeo. And the Nurse wavers with the situation and is the go-between of the doomed marriage, and then the supporter of the marriage with Paris. And there will be three corpses in the funeral monument at the end of the last, in fact third, night of this drama that is contained in three days, Monday, Tuesday, Wedbesday with tso small night extension (Sunday night and Wednesday night). Three is trouble, three is drama because a third element, character or whatever, always jumps between the two lovers directly or indirectly, like the death of Tybalt between Juliet cousin to Tybalt and husband to Romeo but who is also cousin to Juliet and step-cousin to Romeo.

But this play has another dimension that is a lot less known or considered. It is an archetype of the freedom of lovers in a world where love is a family merchandise, or rather should I say in which a virgin is a merchandise to increase the power and prestige of her family, and we are dealing with the virginity of girls, since boys have whores and bawdy women to pass there desires from one body to another. This play is a tremendous pamphlet for the freedom of women in love, but also in life. It is a feminist play before all ages and probably the best homage Shakespeare could deliver to his Queen and supporter Elizabeth I without being indecent or superfluously flattering. That's the political dimension of this play, and it is also the best testimony England was advanced on all other countries at the end of the 16th century, at least 100 years ahead, and such dramas will only be put to the stage in France at the end of the 17th century, and in Germany with people like Goethe and Schiller one more century later, and the Italians will touch the problem essentially through religious Vespers, operas or other rites to Mary, Mary Magdalena and others starting at the end of the 1'th century in painting and in the 16th century with Monteverdi.

This play has become a source of inspiration for many other artists in all arts and it is still played with the greatest success we can imagine, and this production by the BBC is quite in line with this fame and power, though maybe slightly too slow, but they preferred that to shortening some sections as many have done in the cinema particularly.

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