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DIRECTOR: Claire McCarthy (little hands, the waiting city)
starring: daisy ridley, George mackay, naomi watts, and clive owen

REVIEWER: nick tonkin

Ophelia is the Queen of Denmark’s most trusted lady-in-waiting. She soon captures the attention of the handsome Prince Hamlet and a forbidden love blossoms. 

Ophelia is a retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet - based on the novel by Lisa Klein, it is told from Ophelia's perspective. This allows for an original interpretation of Hamlet, but one that curiously feels as though it refrains from fully exploring key parts of the story.


Directed by Australian filmmaker Claire McCarthy and starring Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen, George MacKay and Tom Felton this is a movie that is bursting with talent. This is extends to the production itself - the costumes are beautiful, the set design and cinematography are both excellent. This all comes together to create a lovely film that is unfortunately restrained from reaching the heights it promises to. 


The film shows us Ophelia's humble childhood, her love of nature and youthful temerity - which improbably leads to a station as one of Queen Gertrude's handmaidens. From this position, she is witness to things that are relatively unexplored in Hamlet - the burgeoning relationship between Claudius and Gertrude, Claudius' attitude towards both Hamlet and the King, the toll the acrimony between Claudius and Hamlet takes on Gertrude.

Though peculiarly, as the film is a presentation of her point of view, this means that she is removed from key parts of the story - that she just catches the tail of, or hears about later. So we aren't privy to the scene where Hamlet devises the play portraying Claudius' betrayal, or where Hamlet confronts Gertrude and kills Polonius. Instead, we see the play for the first time alongside Claudius himself; also, invented story elements such as from whom the poison used to kill the King came from, and that Ophelia met the King's ghost first atop the castle.


Despite this, the film reaches for such great heights with how its Hamlet and Ophelia play off each other in front of the court to give the impression of madness - both are players playing a part. Ophelia isn't an ingenue driven from her wits because of circumstance but rather someone playing the game to her advantage. Both Ridley and MacKay are excellent in bringing life to these moments.


Ophelia is an interesting reimagining of Hamlet, which gives a fair go to the historically often-maligned character of Ophelia. It reaches for greatness with its portrayal of Ophelia and Hamlet's relationship but falls short in its consideration of important elements of Hamlet and the inclusions of some  peculiar invented additions to the story.

Ophelia is an imaginative retelling of the classic Hamlet tale with extraordinary performances from Ridley and MacKay but slightly loses its way with its new additions.

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