“The Marsh King’s Daughter” is a sort of revenge thriller that simmers along but ultimately isn’t very thrilling. The film has an uneven pace and takes a long time to get started. And when it finally does get going, it ends abruptly without managing to engage or leave any other impression.

The screenplay is based on the book of the same name by Karen Dionne, which is apparently well-read and appreciated. However, as a film, it doesn’t work. Neil Burger, the director, has done some good stuff before (“Limitless” in 2011, “Divergent” in 2014), but here the end product is flat.

To avoid spoiling some really good twists (if you’re not familiar with the story already), I won’t go into details about the plot. However, I will mention in passing that at the center we have Helena, whose mother was kidnapped when she was young, and what follows is a kind of revenge story. At the same time, or even more so, this is a film about a woman’s confrontation with her past.

The Marsh King’s Daughter” deals with secrets, family, and context, but also about constantly longing to be elsewhere. The film has some qualities in theory, and above all, I like the ambition to contrast the chaos of the city against the nature and the untamed wild outside. There is a constant tug-of-war between the two, and therein undoubtedly lies drama to be harvested.

The Marsh King's Daughter
Daisy Ridley as Helena

Unfortunately, that drama does not develop, and instead, we are presented with superficial swamp romance that lacks any real feeling behind it. Overall, there is a noticeable absence of emotion, and I don’t feel any warmth between Helena (Daisy Ridley) and her husband Stephen (Garrett Hedlund), or anyone else for that matter either. The fact that Helena is now completely alienated from her mother is a very interesting perspective that is not further explored either.

Ridley is good in the lead role, but the character’s motives remain difficult to discern due to gaps in the script and a sluggish pace. Hedlund, as Helena’s husband, is just there, without much involvement, while Ben Mendelsohn, in the role of her father, has some strong moments. Yet even there, I miss something that I can’t quite put my finger on.

The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Official Trailer – Daisy Ridley, Ben Mendelsohn, Garrett Hedlund

“The Marsh King’s Daughter” isn’t a bad film per se, but it could have been so much better. The story has that potential. But besides a lack of genuine feelings in the story and between the characters, the problem is that I also do not feel for anyone. Ridley does as well as she can, but it’s not enough, and I couldn’t care less. The end result is sluggish, the climax is forced, and the feeling I have when I leave the movie theater is “okay, sure… but what the heck?”.

What do others have to say about the movie?

The performances elevate a story that could have gone deeper, but is fine for what it’s trying to be.

-Screen Rant

A game Ridley, along with a brief cameo by a soulful Gil Birmingham, provides the necessary stakes for Burger’s film not to idle in narrative mud.

-The New York Times

The Marsh King’s Daughter is yet another addition to the forgotten library of inconsequential and underdeveloped action thrillers.

-We Got This Covered

Perhaps suffering from the same kind of identity crisis as its heroine, Burger’s soggy mishmash of an adaptation struggles to thread the needle between pulpy fun and a probing character study.


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