What would Hamlet look like through Ophelia’s eyes? That is the driving philosophy behind “Ophelia,” a new drama from Australian director and visual artist Claire McCarthy. IFC Films nabbed rights to the film this past January, though it premiered a whole year earlier at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. “Star Wars” breakout Daisy Ridley leads the film as the titular heroine, with Naomi Watts playing Gertrude and Clive Owen as Claudius. A recently released trailer plays up lots of high court intrigue and dangerous players vying for power, much like a certain mega-hit HBO show.
Per the official synopsis: “Set in medieval Denmark and spoken in a modern tongue with a poetic twist, [‘Ophelia’] re-calibrates the classic Shakespearean tragedy of ‘Hamlet’ so that its unspoken, complex heroine may share her own story. As a rebellious and motherless child, Ophelia (Ridley) is taken into Elsinore Castle by Queen Gerturde (Watts) as one of her most trusted ladies-in-waiting. Soon enough, Ophelia captures the affections of the young Prince Hamlet (George MacKay). A passionate romance kindles between the two in secret as the kingdom is on the brink of war amidst its own political intrigue and betrayal. When Hamlet’s father is murdered and the prince’s wits begin to unravel into an insatiable quest for vengeance, Ophelia sharply navigates the rules of power in Denmark all while struggling to choose between her true love and her own life.”
While that might sound exciting for a different kind of film, Shakespeare is not one to be trifled with. In her C-grade review out of Sundance, IndieWire’s Kate Erbland gave some hint as to why “Ophelia” sat undistributed for so long: “McCarthy’s film, based on Lisa Klein’s 2006 novel of the same name, takes its best ideas (and its best performers) and traps them in a cheap narrative that will likely rank among the worst of many Shakespearean adaptations. It’s such a good idea on paper, rendered totally inert on the screen.”
IFC will release “Ophelia” in theaters on June 28 and VOD on July 5. Check out the “Game of Thrones”-inspired trailer (you can see how Watts would have made a great Cersei Lannister) below.