NEW TO HULU! Finding Ophelia introduces itself with a series of kinetic Rorschach tests, which could double as an accurate description of the entire film. In it, a young man, William Edgar (Jimmy Levar), wanders through the city at night and sees its ripped backsides, much of which is initially interpreted as the external projection of backed-up creativity, which isn’t receiving a proper outlet as a result of his straitlaced job.
As writer-director Stephen Rutterford’s gonzo drama rolls on, it has other explanations, all of which involve a beautiful woman (Christina Chu)—the sort that hovers above the water and beckons sailors to steer into the rocks. Or maybe she’s a nice girl. Either way, William is hopelessly infatuated with her and believes her presence in his dreams is a signal. This leads him on a magical mystery tour through an urban hellscape of taunting pigs, dancing caterpillars, and frothing pedestrians. At one point, he pulls a raw chicken out of the fridge and really gives it what for.
“…a magical mystery tour through an urban hellscape of taunting pigs, dancing caterpillars, and frothing pedestrians.”
Whatever excuse for a plot it has, Finding Ophelia is, more often than not, a visual riot composed of unabandoned what-ifs. By that, I mean it’s hard to imagine there were very many ideas that got shot down in the name of “but why” or “too much.” At times, it veers into stoner woo-woo that doesn’t hold up under sober scrutiny—the “do you doubt that?” sequence comes to mind—and the ending, while unexpected, is not quite satisfactory. For a story that is clearly comfortable with the unknown, it’s surprisingly shy at the finale and concedes to traditional narrative structure and orthodoxy by overexplaining itself.
For optimal viewing, the movie is best considered a series of expressive vignettes, ranging from pleasant to stomach-churning to comically surreal. It nearly achieves greatness in one particular scene that begins with William’s finger quietly detaching itself from his hand. It wriggles its way through his apartment like it’s trying to find its way back to The Addams Family. What happens to the finger? I don’t remember, nor do I care. But I remember the image of a finger emancipating itself from its palm prison to roam free, and that’s enough.
Finding Ophelia is the sort of film that most people turn off after the first ten minutes. Its fate lies in the hands of those who are tired of the modern storytellers’ obsession with literalness and providing the answers to their own questions. Rutterford has a certain knack for weirdo imagery and making movies that are fun, which it seems some people forget cinematic ventures are supposed to be. And this is very fun.