There are few stories known as worldwide as that of Romeo and Juliet. The story of star-crossed lovers has been adapted countless times and referenced even more, and yet, despite the age-old story being so familiar, Hollywood still seems keen to try and find new ways to tell it. Enter Rosaline. Inspired by the book When You Were Mine by author Rebecca Serie, Rosaline offers a new spin on the romantic classic. This time around, it’s not Romeo and Juliet that take centerstage, but rather Juliet’s cousin, Rosaline – Romeo’s former lover.
Rosaline, which is a comedic retelling with modern influences, stars the excellent Kaitlyn Dever as the titular character. Despite their warring families, Rosaline has found herself falling for Romeo Montague, although she knows her family can never know of their love. Little does she know, though, that her love has found himself smitten with someone else: her cousin, Juliet. And it’s not just puppy love, either. Gone are Romeo’s playboy ways as he spends his days chasing after Juliet and only Juliet. Eager to win back Romeo, Rosaline seeks to ruin things between Juliet and Romeo resulting in a chaotic love story that proves love is capable of driving us all a little mad.
When it comes to Rosaline, Dever is easily the best part of the film and it’s clear she’s having a blast as the mischievous Rosaline. And while her on-screen chemistry with Romeo (Kyle Allen) is nearly non-existent, Dever is electric alongside Sean Teale‘s Dario. Every moment the duo share on screen is captivating; their dynamic is excellent and complements the less impressive relationship between Romeo (Allen) and Juliet (Isabela Merced). It’s hard to buy these two as Romeo and Juliet; they lack any kind of spark. Thankfully, even with sometimes stilted performance, what truly sells this take on the classic story is that the cast – or rather, most of the cast – is so willing to lean into the material. It takes more than simply adding modern bits to make something unique. Without a cast committed to the material, Rosaline would not have worked.
While set in the renaissance era, Rosaline is very modern – from the language to the behaviors of its characters and the social standards, this isn’t the Romeo and Juliet story viewers are used to. Driven by modern music and a leading lady unwilling to give into society’s expectations of her, Rosaline is a delight to watch. Even more impressive, though, is that while Romeo and Juliet are featured in the film – the story we’ve come to know isn’t the story that plays out here. It’s far more realistic and entertaining, and it ultimately helps to drive Rosaline’s story forward.
All in all, Rosaline is a breath of fresh air. It’s emotional, romantic and simply fun. Those eager for a fresh new take on the Romeo and Juliet lore will want to check out Rosaline. Dever delivers a hell of a performance as the titular character and Karen Maine (Yes, God, Yes) is a director to watch.