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With: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Tom Felton, Clive Owen, George MacKay, Daisy Head, Sebastian De Souza, Dominic Mafham, Devon Terrell
Written by: Semi Chellas, based on a novel by Lisa Klein
Directed by: Claire McCarthy
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a scene of violence/bloody images, some sensuality, and thematic elements
Running Time: 114
Date: 06/21/2019

Ophelia (2019)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Less Than Kind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a novel by Lisa Klein, Ophelia attempts to re-imagine Shakespeare's Hamlet entirely from its female lead's point of view. Daisy Ridley makes a fierce, independent Ophelia, lovely and appealing, and director Claire McCarthy provides a gorgeous, lavish landscape for the story to take place. But it runs into several inevitable roadblocks. First, screenwriter Semi Chellas (a veteran of TV's Mad Men) foregoes the poetic Shakespearian dialogue, so that lines like "get thee to a nunnery" simply come out flat ("go to a nunnery"). Other wrinkles are smoothed out, such as the ghost that speaks to Hamlet about his father's betrayal, which turns out not to be a ghost. In many other scenes, the filmmakers do a passably interesting job of finding the margins of famous moments, and creating entrances and exits for Ophelia into them, and one in particular, the play intended to "catch the conscience of the king," is a beautiful shadow-play work. But it never really adds up. Tom Felton is terrific as Ophelia's brother Laertes; his character gets a proxy boost from the new focus on his sister. George MacKay is a serviceable Hamlet, and, as Claudius, Clive Owen never seems to get comfortable in his wig, but Naomi Watts shines in a dual role as Hamlet's mother Gertrud and a newly-invented second role.

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