[Sundance 2018] Ophelia Review: Revisionist Shakespeare at its Best

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Ophelia takes one of the most misunderstood women in classic literature and gives her new dimensions as we look at the world through her eyes.

Director: Claire McCarthy
Summary: Something is rotten in medieval-era Denmark, where political intrigue swirls around the imperial court like dark magic. Amid it all, the queen's brightest lady-in-waiting, Ophelia, finds herself drawn to Hamlet, the charismatic and elusive crown prince. As their secretive love affair takes flight, betrayal strikes the court, threatening to derail their union and devastate the royal family for good. Caught between her desires and her loyalty, Ophelia has to decide where her devotion will ultimately lie.

[Sundance 2018] Ophelia Review: Revisionist Shakespeare at its Best
Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

We've had some great stories come out of revisionist storytelling. In this case, it's taking one of the most famous plays and looking at from the point of view of a woman who is just labeled as "mad" and not much else. Ophelia aims to turn that overlooked woman into an actual character with agency and a life outside of the main "to be or not to be" story we all read in high school.

Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) is drawn into the world of court and ladies when she comes a lady-in-waiting to the queen. However, her free spirit means she learns more than a few dark secrets concerning the royals. This is a movie that aims to show the place of women in this time period and just how little power that they had.

The costumes are awesome to the point that they are nearly distracting. The detail that the costume designer put into making all of the dresses is fantastic, and combined with the wonderful cinematography, Ophelia is a lovely movie to watch if nothing else. However, there is plenty going on for those who like this kind of filmmaking. The dialogue isn't quite "Shakespearean", so for people unfamiliar with his work or for someone who doesn't like that sort of writing, it's a little easier to listen to. And it's still larger than life with all the sex and violence you expect from these plays.

The pacing is likely not going to be for everyone. The meat of the story takes a little time to get going, but once it does, it's a ton of fun. Ridley is admirable in the role as she proves that she is more than just Rey from Star Wars. She has leading lady potential. She has good chemistry with George MacKay, but she has amazing interactions with Naomi Watts as Gertrude. Watts threatens to take the entire movie over at time through sheer charisma alone, but she is matched by Ridley and Clive Owen as Cladius. Tom Felton is a bit underused as Laertes, but he's good when we do get to see him.

Some people are not going to understand why Ophelia exists. However, it helps fill in the gaps of one of the most famous plays of all time and brings a woman to the forefront of the story. This Ophelia is fascinating, dynamic, and fun to watch. Hopefully we'll see more of the forgotten women of classic literature getting their own stories in the future.

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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on instagram. She's also a co-host at The Nerd Dome Podcast. Listen to it at http://www.nerddomepodcast.com
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