Movie Review: Lost in his dreams, “Finding Ophelia”

Obscurant, trippy and more “Shakespeare Adjacent” than an adaptation of “Hamlet” or its tragic female lead, “Finding Ophelia” is one of the more visually-arresting misfires you’ll encounter on the big screen.

The acting is so wooden (line readings in particular) that viewers are right to be concerned with getting splinters. And great is the screen time in this ever-so-short dream drama that is devoted to hallucinatory, kaleidoscopic images, the visions of our hero, “Will” (Jimmy Levar), an ad exec fretting over a woman (Christina Chu-Ryan) he’s never met.

“Where do you think we go to when we’re asleep?” he finally asks a friend, relatively late in a film where little that we hear or that Will says falls into the realm of the coherent. Maybe that’s where Ophelia “lives.”

Will is adrift, wandering the city streets in an all-black ensemble (save for his sneakers), dropping into his favorite bar but not listening to bartender Steve (Steve Schaefer) and his jokes, dodging an endless succession of calls from work, distractedly meeting his girlfriend (Gabriella Whiting) for dinner, after he’s forgotten they were ever scheduled to meet.

“What’s gotten into you?”

“Bourbon? Drugs?”

The girlfriend’s name, by the way, is Juliette. But our Will, who opens a copy of “Hamlet” at one point, isn’t focused on Juliette. He’s moved on to the fair Ophelia.

As she herself says in the play, in a phrase repeated several yes for effect here, “Do you DOUBT that?”

Writer-director Stephen Rutterford goes out of his way to maintain the picture’s fever-dream tone, but never puts much effort into folding in a narrative. Will does what he can to avoid dealing with people he knows as he searches for the source of his obsession, a search that turns surreal and grisly at times.

An old woman voices over some passages with lines that I couldn’t nail down as actually coming from Ophelia or “Hamlet,” but sound vaguely Shakespearean.

Eventually, like all dreams, “Finding Ophelia” comes to an end, leaving only the vaguest notion of where it began even as where it and Will end up makes the tiniest bit of sense.

MPA Rating: unrated, one bloody scene

Cast: Jimmy Levar, Christina Chu-Ryan, Natalie Blessing and Steve Schaefer

Credits: Scripted and directed by Stephen Rutterford. An Indie Rights release.

Running time: 1:13

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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