Title Card
"Title Card," The Marsh King’s Daughter, directed by Neil Burger, 2023, (Lions Gate Films)

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General Information

Director(s) Neil Burger
Screenplay By Elle Smith, Mark L. Smith
Source Material By Karen Dionne
Date Released (In Theaters) November 3rd, 2023
Genre(s) Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Film Length 1 Hour 48  Minutes
Content Rating Rated R
Noted Characters and Cast
Jacob Ben Mendelsohn
Helena (10 Years Old) Brooklynn Prince
Helena (30 Years Old) Daisy Ridley
Beth Caren Pistorius

Only pertinent information is included in the summary and review section, which might be considered spoilers. However, in some posts, the ending will be recapped and explained as long as the film or short is publicly accessible. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links. If a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Content Rating Explanation

“The Marsh King’s Daughter” contains:

  • Dialog: Nothing notable
  • Violence: Blood, gun violence
  • Sexual Content: Nothing notable
  • Miscellaneous: Nothing notable

Film Summary

Jacob Holbrook kidnapped a young woman named Beth, and for 12 years, out in the wilderness of Michigan, he kept her from escaping and even got her pregnant with Helena. Luckily for Beth, ten years into Helena’s life, she was able to escape with her, and while it took time for Helena to accept who her dad was, in time, she did, and 20 years later, she has a husband and child of her own.

Unfortunately, her peace gets disturbed when her father breaks out of a prison transportation van, and with that, she believes she and her family won’t have peace as long as her father is out there. So, taking those ten years of training she got from Jacob, regarding surviving in the wild, she finds herself splitting focus between protecting her family and prepping to face her father.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.

Jacob

Jacob (Ben Mendelsohn)
“Jacob (Ben Mendelsohn),” The Marsh King’s Daughter, directed by Neil Burger, 2023, (Lions Gate Films)

The man who would become known as “The Marsh King” is a survivalist. Someone who knows how to build a home, hunt, and protect what’s his out in the wilderness from humans, wolves, and nearly anything you can imagine. And while we don’t learn about his background, it becomes clear family means a lot to him.

Helena (10 years old)

Helena (Brooklynn Prince)
“Helena (Brooklynn Prince),” The Marsh King’s Daughter, directed by Neil Burger, 2023, (Lions Gate Films)

Ten-year-old Helena was deeply in love with her father. He taught her to hunt, gave her tattoos to remember important moments, and used all his interest in indigenous ways of raising a child to try to make her into the image he had of himself.

Helena (30 Years old)

Helena (Daisy Ridley)
“Helena (Daisy Ridley),” The Marsh King’s Daughter, directed by Neil Burger, 2023, (Lions Gate Films)

Having reconciled who her father is with the man she loved, Helena has struggled with her past, mainly in what people would think if they knew. For while her mother gave her normalcy, to the best of her abilities, including a paternal figure, this didn’t erase all that has happened. Even in terms of dating, Helena felt she had to hide so much of herself, like who her parents were, and change her name to get the husband she had.

However, while there is shame and negative feelings regarding who her father was, she honors and shares with her daughter a lot of what he taught her.

Beth

Beth is Helena’s mom who suffered for over a decade with Jacob, and it wore her down in ways that, if it wasn’t for Helena, she may not have decided to continue to fight.

Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

Highlights

A Different Side To Daisy Ridley

I feel like Ridley is at the point of her career we usually see child stars where she is trying to break away from that thing we know her as. Granted, her last “Star Wars” was in 2019, but it was also her last major role and hit movie. For while “Sometimes I Think About Dying” is making the rounds, it isn’t necessarily a reintroduction, and I wouldn’t go as far as to say her role as Helena is either.

However, I do feel like, compared to “Sometimes I Think About Dying,” this film taps more into the action heroine persona that was being crafted but roots it in reality. Then, when you add on her being a mom, a wife, and someone who is dealing with obtaining normalcy while not feeling normal, you can see a balance. You get layers here, and it pushes you to invest in Helena because of who she is vs. who is playing her. A feat many actors aren’t able to do since they have long lost the ability to get their audience to forget it is them and focus on the character.

Helene’s Complicated Relationship With Jacob and Beth

The way Prince and Ridley portray Helena easily is the best thing about the movie. They are portraying the story of an unharmed victim. Beth is the one kidnapped and raped and knew it, but Helena? She was protected from the truth to the point she was willing to run away with her father if he wasn’t caught. And then when you add in the years of Helena calling Beth a liar, refusing to believe the news, but eventually growing up and realizing your dad was a monster who not only preyed on your mom but killed people?

It pushes you to note how complicated relationships between parents and children are. I mean, even as an adult, Helena has a skewed idea of who her mom was since, often, Beth was doing a reconciliation of her own. Yes, she was free from Jacob but spent over ten years as his captive. Similar to what we saw in “Room,” PTSD isn’t something that ends once your captor can no longer harm you. It’s something that you may live with for life.

So imagine Helena damning you, as Beth, for what happened to her dad and their relationship ending, on top of the pain from being assaulted, physically and sexually, countless times and trapped in the middle of nowhere, with it being unlikely you’d get rescued? It’s a lot to process.

Then, as an adult, in Helena’s case, still working through your mother’s dark periods and thinking because you were a baby born of rape, she doesn’t like or love you. I can’t imagine how that must feel, and between Prince and Ridley, you get a good amount of time to see and potentially understand Helena’s struggles.

Jacob v. Helena

Is Jacob and Helena’s face-off like the end of an action movie starring someone who became famous in the 1980s? No. However, there is something about the push and pull of it all. You can tell Helena doesn’t want to kill her dad, and he doesn’t necessarily want to kill her either. He’s twisted but ultimately wants to salvage what family he has, and she has lingering feelings for him while aware of who her father is; at the same time, the evil that he forced others to experience wasn’t someone she did firsthand.

So, watching the back and forth, the hiding, the shooting almost gave me flashbacks of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater in terms of this being a more tactile fight than guns blazing, being ready to swing on someone and throw all you have at them.

Who Is This For?

Those who like complicated father/daughter relationships due to the father being a criminal.

Recommendations

If you like this movie, we recommend:

  1. Room: If you want a story closer to Beth’s than Helena’s

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

How Did “The Marsh King’s Daughter” End? (Ending Explained)

Due to Jacob coming to Helena’s house, making his presence known, and pushing Helena to worry about her family’s safety, she goes out to the cabin where she grew up to confront her father. He arrives, originally seeming peaceful, grateful to see her, and willing to back down. However, when Helena’s step-father shows up, the former captain of police who arrested Jacob, any unwritten deal they had is off, and after Jacob kills Helena’s stepfather, he puts her into a hole where he plans to have her stay, as he gets her daughter so they can be a family.

Luckily, using her survival skills, Helena gets out of the hole, finds her dad’s old gun, and begins the process of hunting him down. He catches her off guard once and gets the upper hand, but then she has them go off a cliff and is able to reach a gun and shoot him in the head before he can kill her.

Questions Left Unanswered

  1. Where was Beth’s family, and what was Jacob’s background? We learn he was heavily inspired by indigenous cultures and people, but was that all from reading, maybe living near a nation? This isn’t answered.

Is There Sequel/ Prequel Potential?

Unless they decide to go into the events which led to Beth being kidnapped or even Beth’s side of everything, then no.


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The Marsh King’s Daughter – Overview

Summary

What we love are performances that show its leads as multifaceted. Helene is someone trying to manage her trauma, be a loving mother, maintain her relationship to her husband, and somehow honor what her father taught her but reconcile that with the man he is. The combination led to a wonderful performance from Ridley, and surely this should be seen as a building block to what’s to come for her career.

Overall
83%
83%
  • Helene's Complicated Relationship With Jacob and Beth - 83%
    83%
  • A Different Side To Daisy Ridley - 82.5%
    83%
  • Jacob v. Helena - 82%
    82%
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User Review
0 (0 votes)

Highlight(s)

  • Jacob v. Helena
  • A Different Side To Daisy Ridley
  • Helene’s Complicated Relationship With Jacob and Beth

Disputable

  • N/A

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