CAPSULE: It takes no small amount of chutzpah to take what is one of Shakespeare's greatest and most respected plays and to extend the story with language in Shakespearian English. This version centers on Ophelia and the familiar circumstances are seen through her eyes. Though friends of mine who are fans of the Bard may not like me saying this, this Ophelia is more compelling than most stage versions of the same character. The reimagining has some plot revision, but that is kept to a minimum. Directed by Claire McCarthy; written by: Semi Chellas. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Occasionally we get a well-known story written as a retelling of an already familiar story but seen from a different character's viewpoint. MARY REILLY told the story of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE from the point of view of a housemaid. ROSENKRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD told a part of HAMLET from the point of view of the two title characters. Currently the film OPHELIA--also taken from HAMLET--tells the story of Ophelia, lover of Hamlet. But it is told from her side from the famous plot.
Most of us who took English in school will know the story of HAMLET. One weakness of Semi Chellas's screenplay is to make Ophelia sort of a Super-Elizabethan with talents beyond those of her peers or in Denmark of the time. She is more boy than most boys in the court, while she impresses other women by knowing how to read, a rare talent in her circle of friends or in Denmark. Daisy Ridley, Rey from the STAR WARS series is forceful in the title role, but all too often her speech lacks a certain quality I call "decibels." Also featured are Naomi Watts as Gertrude and Clive Owen as Claudius. The story could be better matched to their talents.
The screenplay is tied to the Shakespeare version by several references to events mentioned in the Shakespeare play. For example, out of context someone might mention Yorick died without the reference advancing the plot.
The production design does its part, but might have been more ornate. It may disappoint some viewers, coming as it does just few months after the film THE FAVOURITE was released. Of course, one expects the late Restoration court of England to be more lavish than the late Middle Ages court of Denmark.
[Spoiler: Images of the dead, drowned Ophelia seem heavily based on the painting John Everett Millais' painting "Ophelia."]
I rate OPHELIA a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Release date: In theaters June 28th and available on VOD and Digital July 2nd
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5690810/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ophelia_2019
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2019 Mark R. Leeper