Romeo*Juliet -- Film Review

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HONG KONG -- Shakespeare's endlessly relevant romance gets a sporting makeover in Andibachtiar Yusuf's soccer tale, "Romeo*Juliet." The soccer fan-turned-documentary filmmaker ("The Jak") tries his hand with a narrative and mostly succeeds, thanks in large part to strong source material. Asian festivals are sure to snap up the film, but wide release is a long shot outside its native Indonesia.

Jak supporter Rangga (Edo Borne) and Bandung fan Desi (Sissy Prescilia) initially cross paths during a riot, and though they're from opposite sides of the proverbial tracks, neither can put the other out of their minds. Braving the hostility of the streets in Bandung territory, Rangga goes in search of the mystery woman (a substitute for the ball in the play), finally locating her, and they fall head over heels. This doesn't sit too well with Desi's older brother Parman (Alex Komang), and his friends and colleagues brand Rangga a traitor.

Regardless of how it will appear to friends and family, the two get hitched and are soon faced with alienation, but Yusuf never overtly condemns or condones the reactions. He allows them to play out as the natural, if misguided, roots of fanaticism and follows through to the logical and tragic end. Clear comments on the dangers of fanaticism, of any sort, are unnecessary as the random burst of hideous violence say all that needs to be said.

Swap out ethnic, religious and sexuality-based differences for soccer preferences, and you've got what amounts to a universal story hinging on the conflict between intolerance and emotion -- and a fitting exploration of the connection between the two. It's the reason "Romeo and Juliet" has been adapted into dozens of separate artworks.

Yusuf is in firm control of the material and ratchets up the tension enough to drive the narrative, but never too much to be utterly unconvincing. As the central couple, Borne and Prescilia have a natural dynamic that carries the film beyond any minor technical glitches (the sound could be a lot better), with the actress turning in a moving performance as a soon-to-be young widow.

Production company: Bogalakon Pictures

Cast: Edo Borne, Sissy Prescilia, Ramon Y. Tungka, Alex Komang, Epi Kusnadar, Norman Akyuwen
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Andibachtiar Yusuf
Executive producer: Lucky Hakiem
Director of photography: Chemonk Faiz Tjotjona
Production designer: Edmond Waworuntu
Music: Ananda Sukarlan
Editor: Darwin Nugraha
Sales: Bogalakon Pictures
No rating, 105 minutes