For as much of a masterpiece as Hamlet is, the female characters in the play are more than a little underwritten. Gertrude has little to do but watch her son descend into madness while being positioned as the disloyal wife now sleeping with her husband’s killer. Then there’s the subject of this week’s new movie Ophelia, which seeks to change the perspective of the events depicted in the play from her perspective.
Daisy Ridley stars as the title character, who is taken in as a young child by Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts). That brings her into the life of young Hamlet (George MacKay) as well, a fateful pairing that will have repercussions for both after Hamlet’s father is killed. It’s then up to Ophelia to walk the line between her responsibilities in the court and what her heart is calling her to do.
The title character is shown from behind on the first and only poster, her blue dress blending nicely with the wall covering behind her. Copy makes it clear the story will be telling “Hamlet through her eyes,” a nice way of communicating to the audience what they should expect.
IFC debuted the first trailer in late April. It shows Ophelia’s life before the events depicted in the play, including her relationship with the young prince Hamlet. When his father is killed and uncle assumes the throne we continue to get her perspective on events, seeing how her world is thrown upside down. She wants to help Hamlet, including encouraging him to run away with her, but no one seems to take her seriously and she gets caught up in the madness infecting the whole kingdom.
Online and Social
IFC Films’ official website for the movie has a good synopsis, the trailer and a cast list, but that’s about it. There are no social profiles, but the studio did promote it on its brand channels.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve been exposed to.
Media and Publicity
A first look photo showing Ridley as the title character appeared in EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue. More stills were released later on providing more looks at the film alongside comments from Watts just before its scheduled debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, a debut many critics were anxiously looking forward to. While there McCarthy and Watts talked about the film and how telling the story from a woman’s point of view is super-timely and relevant.
IFC finally picked up distribution almost a year after that Sundance premiere.
The first clip was released in early June showing Ophelia having a pointed conversation with the Queen about their respective status in the castle. Another shows a flirtatious moment between Ophelia and Hamlet.
There was an interview with Watts about the movie but, surprisingly, nothing with Ridley, at least not to date. Most of the recent stories about her have been about Star Wars or her personal life.
More so than many other movies, this really does seem like a reimagining of a familiar story that may add something new and interesting to the original. As I mentioned, Ophelia’s role in Hamlet isn’t exactly a portrait of an empowered young woman, but there’s nothing in the marketing for the movie that suggests it detracts from the classic Shakespeare play so much as it adds shading and coloring, bringing out aspects not previously given full attention.
Ridley’s absence from the publicity circuit is disappointing given her place in the title role, but it may also be a symptom of being part of other, bigger productions. If that had been a bit more pronounced the campaign as a whole might have been a bit more engaging, but there hasn’t been anyone out there in the time leading up to release playing the story up as vital and important for contemporary audiences. That’s a shame.