Directed by Claire McCarthy.
Starring Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, George MacKay, Clive Owen, Tom Felton, Sebastian de Souza, Devon Terrell, Daisy Head, Dominic Mafham, Anna Rust, Mia Quiney, and Martin Angerbauer.
A re-imagining of Hamlet, told from Ophelia’s perspective.
Hamlet is a Shakespearean tragedy so reenacted to death that even if you have never read the play, I guarantee you know the story. Like most of Shakespeare’s work, it’s had adaptations and serves as an inspirational template for many film/tv projects that run the gamut of pop-culture, one of which is about to see a live-action remake in a few weeks from Disney (The Lion King). So forgive me if I’m not exactly sold or enthused about a retelling of the story that essentially swaps the perspective from Hamlet to the now titular Ophelia (now portrayed by the white-hot Daisy Ridley), nothing against director Claire McCarthy (making her sophomore feature here) who certainly shoots the thing with grace, elegant photography, all boasting glamorous costume design.
There is no point in dropping down a few lines explaining the setup or what Ophelia is about; it’s Hamlet. It’s instantly recognizable who is going to kill who, what is going to cause Denmark’s political drama, what the motivations will be behind the major players and the trajectory of the first two acts. Yes, it takes until the final leg of the movie for Ophelia to start fully taking advantage of its female perspective while also shaking up some of the ending results. Admittedly, the final scenes are finely crafted, suspenseful, and drive the film home with excitement.
The journey there is not so entertaining; working as one of the chambermaids to the Queen (Naomi Watts, who is empathetically conflicted here but nothing necessarily extraordinary), Ophelia ends up bickering with the other women, which is logical and understandable. She comes from a lower-class background, lucking her way into the prestigious position she finds herself in. The execution of these arguments and fights is unfortunately downright amateurish, serving as Mean Girls: The Medieval Times Edition, except without any of the bite of that movie. At one point, two characters get in a fight for such a barely explained reason that it’s hard not to laugh at what you’re watching, almost like a regressive catfight from WWE entertainment made its way into another version of Hamlet.
Ophelia also still provides a great deal of character development to Hamlet (who is just completely miscast here as George MacKay, a pretty boy difficult to buy into), so much so to the point where it feels like the film still could be called Hamlet. Nevertheless, Daisy Ridley makes the best of what she is given (anytime a movie starts with narration declaring that the audience knows nothing about the true tale and that we are going to witness something mind-blowing that will forever change the way we see the source material, I feel compelled to take away some points), with her Star Wars success and growing popularity, unfortunately, being one of the only worthwhile element for recommending Ophelia to anyone. Again, the embarrassingly hilarious depiction of Hamlet does ruin the chemistry between George MacKay and Daisy Ridley, leaving behind nothing more than a slightly functional, low heat PG-13 romance that never ignites sparks.
Admittedly, those shortcomings could probably be overlooked considering the story of Hamlet is always an engaging watch no matter how it’s being presented (the wardrobes and production evoke the time period with luscious color and some rather intense one-on-one battle sequences) if Claire McCarthy’s script and direction followed through some more on its promise; telling the story from the eyes of Ophelia. As it stands, it doesn’t take too much of a risk (outside of an out of place reoccurring song cue) and suffers for it. It’s like if The Lion King was called Nala but the first hour still focused on Simba.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com