Of all Shakespeare’s characters, Ophelia has always moved me the most. Victim of circumstances, politics, revenge, gossip, and machismo, it is not without reason that she goes mad and takes her own life in Hamlet. Used by men insensitive to her pain, Ophelia is the love of the Danish prince’s life. Still, she goes in and out of the four-hour-plus play with little room to actually be heard.
In 2006, writer Lisa Klein decided to give the character a leading role in the midst of the tragedy in Elsinore. The best-selling movie was made in 2018, with the beautiful Daisy Ridley in the lead role. And after many years without distribution, the film is available Now. (EDITED: IN 2022 is on Netflix)
The film, for those who are fans of the play, is – to say the least – irregular. In fact, I spend my time loving the potential of the cast – Naomi Watts as Gertrude, Clive Owen as Claudius, and especially George Mackay as Hamlet – pretty much thrown away. All are excellent actors, but the confusion made with the plot to force a new personality for Ophelia gets in the way of everything.
It’s just that in modern times, Ophelia – always passive in the English bard’s play – needs to be more, and with that, she loses her dramatic essence.
Ophelia falls in love with Hamlet and is seduced by him. However, she is warned (belatedly) by her father and brother that she must not give in to the prince because, even if he does love her, a marriage between them is unlikely and without her virginity, she would be lost. Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius, Ophelia’s father, who becomes involved in Claudius’ gossip and plots. Laertes, the brother who was abroad, is also manipulated by the villain. Alone, discarded by Hamlet (involved with his revenge), Ophelia literally freaks out. Society suffocates and massacres it. That’s the tragedy of the character that needed to be highlighted, but not bringing the elements of Romeo and Juliet into the narrative.
Daisy is very pretty in the role, but her inflections are still reminiscent of Rey from Star Wars. Your Ophelia is intelligent, literate, spontaneous, and courageous. None of this contributes to the tragedy that unfolds before his eyes.
George Mackay is confirmed as one of the best of his generation. His Hamlet here doesn’t demand so much depth because the men are supporting actors, but, even so, it gives sympathy and credibility to the character.
With a weak story, it gets even worse for Naomi Watts and Clive Owen. Clive seems to me that in recent years he hasn’t challenged himself anymore. The wig and crown look perforce fake on him. Claudius is flat, a simplistic and obvious villain, everything he is not in the play. Reducing his motivation to so little takes away from Hamlet the value of his grief.
The worst freedom, however, was with Gertrude. Although it is unnecessary to justify the queen’s sexual attraction to her brother-in-law, placing her as a suspect in the plot is also essential to give dimension to Hamlet. The author also wanted to bring new elements to the character, half MacBeth and half esoteric. The twin witch is already almost a laughingstock because Naomi Watts doesn’t even make an effort to tell them apart so much. And then she enters as half Friar Lawrence, half Morgana. It does not give.
I return to the point that it is a shame to spend a good cast without actually using one of the most beautiful and dense texts in dramaturgy. It would have been a great alternative!