An adaptation of Hamlet told through his lover, Ophelia, and based on the novel by Lisa Klein, director Claire McCarthy's sumptuous reimaging of Shakespeare's work is a visual feast.

Colourful and lush; the excessive costumes, makeup and set design bring to mind Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, McCarthy is less successful than Luhrmann at pulling the riot together cohesively.

A lack of chemistry between characters and the mix of a fairy-tale medieval setting and modern vernacular, which occasionally sounds like it's out of a daytime soap, leaves you scratching your head and wondering what McCarthy was hoping for.

The cast is solid enough and does its best with melodramatic material. Naomi Watts plays Gertrude, the Queen of Denmark, who takes in the motherless Ophelia (played by Star War's Daisy Ridley) as one of her ladies in waiting. When the Queen's son Hamlet (George MacKay) returns from studying, he falls for the beautiful Ophelia, who does indeed look like she has stepped out of a Millais painting. When Hamlet's father dies, and his Uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) becomes King, chaos descends, and Ophelia finds herself at the centre of a rift overwhelming both families, and the country.


Ophelia plays with Shakespeare's original narrative, delivering a strong female protagonist and an interesting ending. Without quite giving Ridley permission to play Ophelia's character to its potential, she just comes across as the only sane, normal person amid the mayhem.

It's all very pretty and light, and at times it's easy to forget you're watching Shakespeare - which may appeal to some, and in particular young adults. While gorgeous to look at, Ophelia may have been better realised as an HBO television series.


Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen


Claire McCarthy

Running Time:

106 minutes



M (Violence)


Style over substance