A muddy thriller lead by the usually affective Daisy Ridley.
“The Marsh King’s Daughter” may be based on Karen Dionne’s book, but it starts off as a rip-off of “Room,” as the main child’s mother has been abducted by a villain and raised in captivity. It’s supposed to take a while for her (and it is a girl this time) for her to process how her reality doesn’t require the “kill or be killed” laws. And it continues in a “Revenant” tradition (and Mark L. Smith co-wrote the screenplay) when she must deal with the bad guy in the woods.
Daisy Ridley is the leading lady of this film version, and as much as I’ve appreciated her in non “Star Wars” films like “Ophelia” or her recent voice work in “The Inventor,” I still think “The Marsh King’s Daughter” almost falls as flat as “Chaos Walking.” Both these films take place in the woods, but at the very least, we don’t have to hear all these thoughts in their heads.
In this case, the child named Helena (Brooklynn Prince) has been raised in the marshlands by a man named Jacob Holbrook and nicknamed the Marsh King (Ben Mendolsohn), who abducted her mother (Caren Pistorius) and raised her. When a man on a dirt bike gets lost in the woods, he asks the mother and child for directions, but the mother begs him for help. That is until the Marsh King shoots him dead, thus allowing the mother and daughter to escape. Because the child was raised under his influence, she believes her mother is a weak liar, and escapes from the hospital, only to witness her father getting arrested.
Years have passed, and the Marsh King is in jail, while Helena (now played by Daisy Ridley) marries Stephen (Garrett Hedlund) and raises a daughter named Marigold (Joey Carson). She has grown accustomed to modern life, and even getting a steady job. And yet, she still has thoughts about what her father has said to her in her youth.
And speak of the Devil, the old man escapes from a prison transfer. The old prison van escape trick. Helena is shocked to find out, and is confident he can’t find her. She says to the police: “If he makes it to the wild, you’ll never see him again
Of course, she kept her real identity a secret all these years, not even telling her husband. When the police investigate their house, that’s when he finds out, and that’s when she must reintroduce herself to a full embrace. At least, it doesn’t take the irritable approach.
Gil Birmingham plays a kind detective, whom helps rescue Helena as a child, and even earn him the right to be a grandfather figure to Marigold. Something more could have been done with that, but he has to be a victim to the Marsh King.
Speaking of which……
And in an attempt to keep her family safe, she must venture out in the woods to handle her abductor. You think her attempts to kill him will end, but it keeps changing. Meaning I guess the film is supposed to be longer and it’s supposed to have its challenges.
“The Marsh King’s Daughter” was directed by Neil Burger, who hasn’t made a good movie since “Limitless.” “Divergent,” “The Upside,” and “Voyagers,” not one of them could bring the director back to his roots. He does make the film’s wilderness look beautifully photographed and has Ridley expanding her horizons as a young actress, but he doesn’t have the right screenplay writers to really tests our senses. It gets noisy with the introduction when the young girl freaks out when her mother tries to save her, it gets derivative with her trying to face her past, and it takes too long for her to deal with the villain.
It’s almost as entertaining as getting water in your boots on a camping trip in October or November.
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA strike.