Jou Romeo

2016-12-23 11:41

What it's about:

In this teen romantic comedy two drama students, Yvette and Tyler enlist the popular guy in school, Marko Marais to play the role of Romeo in the school play. But the cool kids frown when Marko trades his cricket bat for some tights. Marko finds himself in a duel when he realises that Yvette is more than just a drama nerd, whilst she also realises Marko is more than a so-called jock, muscles and a nice smile. As rumours of their apparent romance start to surface, Marko has to step up, realise his dream and maintain his reputation.

What we thought:

Afrikaans romances have always been a hit or miss, but one thing the industry gets right most of the time is its Afrikaans teen movies. Of course Jou Romeo is High School Musical with cricket and Shakespeare, but at least the filmmakers are self aware enough that they even worked in a HSM joke into the script. Despite these clichés, The Film Factory delivers a well-rounded narrative with modernised Afrikaans quirks, actors with a flair for the dramatic and probably the best product placement for Pink Lady apples.

Obvious from the name, a theatre queen (Elani Dekker) and cricket jock (Ruan Wessels) are forced to work together when the one needs to sell theatre tickets to put on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, while the other needs help with his maths homework. Soon enough, the hearts start to flutter and secrets threaten the blossoming love.

It might have been a long time since I was in high school, but Jou Romeo has enough wit and charm to even entertain an older audience beyond its teenage demographic. Wessels is a little bit of a pretty boy but fits well into his character, though Dekker was the one who really brought a unique style to the movie. It’s surprising that this is her first feature film role, and she was absolutely stunning in both her dancing and her performance, on stage and on screen. Wessels has grown a lot since he started acting in 2008, but Dekker really pushed him to be his best and he really stepped it up in the comedic scenes. Shakespeare fans however might die a little on the inside. (Fun fact: Wessels played for the Junior Proteas and Dekker was on scholarship at the New York Film Academy, so life was imitating art).

Besides the charming and talented leads, the film had a strong supporting cast and fresh script that might have used some clichéd American plot points, but the writers gave it enough of a spin that it didn’t feel rehashed and had more local flavour. The grownups were as entertaining as the kids and especially the Principal who could describe things in the most verbose Afrikaans ever.  Cricket seemed a bit of a random sport to make idols out of (at my old school barely anyone ever showed up for its matches) but logistically it was probably easier. I also felt that Dekker’s character’s motivations and ‘big secret’ as to why she hates jocks fell completely flat. It was thrown out there and quickly reeled back in without it having any impact on the rest of the story, almost like a limp fish.

What was also well done was the new trend in movies to incorporate social media and text messaging in their narratives (because who calls anymore?) and these graphics flowed seamlessly throughout. They even went further and incorporated a social media diva in the story, which felt more like a grownup’s interpretation of what kids think is cool these days.

Jou Romeo should do well in the December holidays, and if you’re a South African teenager give it a chance – it’s pretty much as entertaining as anything similar that comes out of Hollywood. The climax where everything falls apart is not what you expect and for once a local film manages to flawlessly pull off sponsored product placement without you realising it’s in there. For example, you are really going to want some apples afterwards. 


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