‘Romeo’ movie review: Vijay Antony has lots of fun in this lopsided tale of one-sided love

A scene from ‘Romeo’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Vijay Antony’s carefree performances have evolved into a genre of their own. Known for his measured acting in Naan and Salim, Antony’s shift to exuberant roles in films like Thimiru Pudichavan and Kodiyil Oruvan, along with subdued portrayals in movies such as Pichaikkaran, have been well received. However, it is his latest film Romeo that showcases him at his most uninhibited, lending a silver lining to an otherwise predictable and flat storyline.

In Romeo, Antony takes on the role of Arivu, a thirty-five-year-old man from Malaysia with zero romantic experiences, whose visit back home leads him to fall head over heels for Leela (Mirnalini Ravi). While it’s instant infatuation for Arivu, Leela has her sights set on stardom and views her coerced union with Arivu as an obstacle. Mimicking Revathi from Mouna Ragam, Leela demands a separation. By this time, Arivu is passionately in love and crafts a scheme to turn his unrequited affections into reciprocated ones.

Romeo (Tamil)

Director: Vinayak Vaithianathan

Cast: Vijay Antony, Mirnalini Ravi, Yogi Babu, VTV Ganesh

Runtime: 146 minutes

Storyline: A man endeavours to make his wife fall in love with him after realizing she isn’t invested in their marriage

The theme of a man wooing his dream woman is a well-worn narrative but director Vinayak Vaithianathan freshens it up with a modern twist, leading to some engaging scenes. The main characters, Arivu and Leela, are well-defined; Arivu is endearing and determined, capable of both kindness, like cooking breakfast for Leela’s friends, and of defending Leela from sleazy producers. Though at times Arivu’s actions come off as excessive, they seem justifiable within the narrative’s ‘anything goes’ mindset. Antony’s portrayal of Arivu is authentic, complete with a charming smile, glasses, and vibrant shirts. Leela, conversely, is perpetually irked and dismissive of Arivu’s attempts at winning her over. With a script that doesn’t offer her much depth, Mirnalini puts forth a commendable effort to bring this role to life.

A scene from 'Romeo'

A scene from ‘Romeo’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Despite the first half of the movie focusing on Leela’s cold attitude towards her persistent husband, the comedic relief provided by characters like Arivu, Leela’s friends, Arivu’s uncle (VTV Ganesh), and the cupid-incognito Vikram (Yogi Babu) makes it bearable. The light-hearted moments of Romeo might vanish from memory post-viewing, but it’s these same elements from the first half that are missed as the film progresses. The second half delivers two tangential storylines: one reminiscent of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, and the other a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking with the lead characters that dilutes the original charm of the film.

There are brief instances of cinematic excellence scattered throughout the movie, such as a well-timed transition from Leela’s heavy sigh to a temple horn at a funeral. Antony cleverly pokes fun at the notion of him not only playing but also producing the lead role in the very film, a playful self-satire. Yet, these sparks of ingenuity fade by the film’s end, with the introduction of an entirely unnecessary antagonist leading to a cliché fight sequence—a trope even more dated than the central theme of unrequited love, previously used by Antony in Pichaikkaran 2—followed by a flashback to explain his fear of fire, rendering the foreseeable conclusion all the more wearisome.

Despite its shortcomings, Romeo is a welcome departure from some of Vijay Antony’s more recent unsuccessful ventures, offering an adequate viewing experience with its heartfelt moments.

Romeo is currently showing in cinemas.

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