Review: Ophelia

Year: 2019

Runtime: 106 Minutes

Director: Claire McCarthy

Writer: Claire McCarthy

Stars: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George McKay, Tom Felton

Despite being one of Shakespeare’s most notable heroines, Ophelia has unfortunately been lost in the heavily male-driven narrative of “Hamlet”. However, Claire McCarthy‘s “Ophelia” will give her, and many other neglected female characters, their long-deserved voice. Starring Daisy Ridley as the titular character and Naomi Watts as Queen Gertrude, this film is equally empowering and inspiring. 

Some adaptations feel like the filmmakers have just put the original material in the microwave, however, “Ophelia” is a genuinely new take on the classic tale. Instead of the male-fronted narrative of the vengeful Prince Hamlet, this plot focuses on the story of Ophelia trying to find her way through an oppressive society. It feels as if we are getting a completely new story with glances of the old plotline which brings passionate breath of life into previously neglected characters. It is this originality and which is what makes this film so admirable.

George MacKay and Daisy Ridley in OPHELIA (Blue Finch Film Releasing)
George MacKay and Daisy Ridley in OPHELIA (Blue Finch Film Releasing)

“Ophelia” is a genuinely new take on the classic tale…this film is equally empowering and inspiring”

In the original play, Ophelia, the character, was very much presented as a tragic, passive character, yet she is completely reborn in this film. She has a yearning to empower herself, whether it be through knowledge or by standing up for herself or others. Some of the dialogue is really telling to not only the feminist themes of the film but also Ophelia as a revised character. Lines such as “you will only be safe if you are afraid” present Ophelia as the opposite as she acts in favour of herself without an ounce of fear. This is such a refreshing take on what used to be a very one-dimensional character, especially once combined with Daisy Ridley’s strong performance.

Ophelia, however, isn’t the only character that is given some well-deserved dimension. Queen Gertrude, who is depicted only as a wife and an object of rage for Hamlet, is given a backstory and a multi-layered personality. She is instead a negelected but generous and nurturing woman who upholds a close and motherly relationship with Ophelia due to their mutual humble beginnings.

Naomi Watts in OPHELIA (Blue Finch Film Releasing)
Naomi Watts in OPHELIA (Blue Finch Film Releasing)

“The film in general is impeccably crafted by director Claire McCarthy who gives the character’s the time and development needed to make this a powerful adaptation.”

The film in general is impeccably crafted by director Claire McCarthy who gives the character’s the time and development needed to make this a powerful adaptation. Although there are iconic scenes from the original play, she never diverts from the task at hand – that is telling a different story within the existing narrative. On top of this, the films tays true to showing Ophelia’s perspective of the story, never diverting from said point of view and confirming without a doubt that this is Ophelia’s story.

OPHELIA_D16_060517_IMG_2667.CR2
Daisy Ridley and Tom Felton in OPHELIA (Blue Finch Film Releasing)

Overall, “Ophelia” is not only a prime example of an adaption done right but also an example of the power in female storytelling. The story is well-paced and immaculately told through clever filmmaking and vivid acting.  

Ophelia is available on demand 27 November

@BlueFinchFilms #Ophelia

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