A strong idea and sincere acting from Ben Mendelsohn and Daisy Ridley are let down by a poorly written script that gives in to the genre’s temptations.
Updated November 07, 2023 05:44 pm IST. November 06, 2023 08:05 pm
Even if you haven’t read Karen Dionne’s 2017 book The Marsh King’s Daughter, you may still infer general plot details from Neil Burger’s cinematic adaptation.
However, even this predictability and the flimsy storyline don’t make it a boring thriller; Elle Smith and Mark L. Smith’s adaptation of Dionne’s story, along with some well-done performances and visuals by Alwin H. Küchler, organically infuses an air of dread that somehow keeps everything afloat and keeps you glued to the screen until the disappointing conclusion.
Jacob (Ben Mendelsohn), who raised his 10-year-old daughter Helena (Brooklynn Prince) as a hunter and imparts all of his survival skills to her, lives in a remote hut in a marshland.
Helena adores her father unconditionally, but she is less in love with her mother Beth (Caren Pistorius), whom Jacob claims has lost her mind and is unable to recognise the “happiness” of their lovely existence.
When the severe teacher guilt-trips and punishes Helena for missing a catch, we are informed of Jacob’s darkness as he insists that Helena remain unwavering in her determination to save their family. or when he leaves markings on her flesh representing her successes and shortcomings.
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On a fateful day, Beth spots an opening, knocks Helena unconscious, and makes her way to society.
She escapes to Clark Bekkum’s (Gil Birmingham) police station, where we discover that Jacob had kidnapped Beth years prior, further tying her to the cabin due to her birth and safety.
Fortunately, the police catch Jacob, but before he does, he makes a promise to Helena that he would return for her one day.
Helena would later wish that he had broken this pledge after learning of the atrocities committed by the notorious “Marsh King.”
The Daughter of Marsh King (English)
Neil Burger is the director.
Daisy Ridley, Brooklynn Prince, Ben Mendelsohn, Garrett Hedlund, Caren Pistorius, and Gil Birmingham are in the cast.
Duration: 108 minutes.
Narrative: When her imprisoned father, who notoriously abducted her mother in the woods before she was born, escapes and stalks her, a young woman must save her family.
Today, Daisy Ridley plays Helena, who resides in a calm suburban home with her husband Stephen (Garrett Hedlund) and daughter Marigold (Joey Carson).
Neither of them is aware that Helena is the daughter of the Marsh King. She covers her wounds with cosmetics, works at an accounting business, and goes for late-night swims in a local stream when memories of her past come flooding back.
When she learns that her father has escaped from jail and that he may hurt her family, everything changes.
Thus far, the script has potential for developing into a character study of a lady who, although having a background that affords her a mystical connection to the forest, is also a victim of trauma, the extent of which is invisible to contemporary society.
She struggles to reconcile her belief in the guy she once knew with the information about her father that she has been taught.
Sadly, though, there isn’t much room for psychological inquiry as the movie concentrates more on the suspense-thriller elements of Helena confronting the guy who taught her how to live.
Even if the thriller clichés are horribly out of date, Jacob’s formidable nemesis keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Jacob is presented as this scary character, but because of Mendelsohn’s understated acting, it’s difficult to categorise him anytime he shows up on screen. We’re certain he wouldn’t hurt Helena, but is it enough?
The fact that there is so little room to explore his persona makes this even more annoying. There is no explanation provided for Jacob’s behaviour later in the movie, so we are left to invent our own tales about who he was, how he turned into the Marsh King, and what drove him to become an animal.
The film also finishes on a disappointing note for its finale, the crescendo that it rushes towards.
Mendelsohn, Ridley, Birmingham, and Prince all give compelling performances, but neither the concept nor the performers were worthy of a screenplay with such holes in it.