Though it borrows its title from a character in Hamlet, Finding Ophelia seems more intent on embodying a memorable line from Macbeth: it is a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Borrowing from oft-imitated sources is par for the course here, as writer-director Stephen Rutterford – who is also credited in virtually every other major technical category – clearly aims for the same targets as David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky and even Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run yet widely misses the mark. On display is audiovisual spectacle – Rutterford is certainly an effective purveyor of eye candy – with weak performances and contrived storytelling that leave the whole endeavor feeling dreadfully hollow.

While a character’s obsessions need not be understandable, especially those existing within the kind of hypnagogic atmospherics as found in this film, the intensity of their compulsions must still be believable. The fatal flaw of Finding Ophelia is that William (Jimmy Levar) chases phantoms nearly as listlessly as possible. Haunted by nocturnal visions of the titular siren (Christina Chu-Ryan), William, a hip young professional, mindlessly wanders the city in a solipsistic fugue while letting his life fall apart around him. The voice of an unseen colleague grows increasingly flustered over phone messages peppered throughout the film as William abandons a huge opportunity with a new client. His relationship with Juliette (Gabriella Whiting) isn’t so much star-crossed as it is neglected entirely, prompting her to leave him, which he barely notices.

When he’s not wandering the streets aimlessly, he’s drinking top-shelf whiskey poured over a single large ice cube. He reports to the few friends who get through to him that he’s also been taking pills. The extent to which these substances are responsible for the signs and wonders he encounters through sometimes-disturbing hallucination – at one point, an injured finger detaches in his sleep and then wriggles across the floor like an inchworm – is never given much clarity. But one thing’s for sure, there’s nothing more important in his life than these visions of a woman named Ophelia staring off into the distance, wading through water or otherwise stylistically moving through space.

The fact that we’re introduced to William mid-obsession and never know him behaving any other way certainly hurts the film’s psychological impact. Meanwhile, its philosophy comes off as a bit half-baked as well, with William only offering up the most trite and platitudinous observations and ruminations about the nature of reality and meaning of our dreams. Rutterford flaunts his audiovisual talents throughout and his cinematography is visually compelling – one sequence with waves superimposed across the outline of a sleeping William’s face is particularly striking. But the technical artistry on display mostly only serves to sharply contrast with and heighten the stilted script’s flaws and the ineffectiveness of the wooden performances by fledgling actors like Levar. (This is also the first acting credit for Chu-Ryan, but she remains virtually silent throughout the film.) Rutterford can’t quite pull off a wild swerve into a decidedly more horror-oriented realm in the film’s third act, leaving the overall tone here muddled. Punctuating the film with such an unambiguous ending also takes the mystery out of the whole thing, leaving the viewer with 73 minutes that involve some evocative sensory stimuli and little else.

An audiovisual spectacle with weak performances and contrived storytelling that leave the whole endeavor feeling dreadfully hollow.
40 %
Trippy Nonsense
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