Directed by Neil Burger, “The Marsh King’s Daughter” is a new crime thriller film based on Karen Dionne’s eponymous novel. Starring Daisy Ridley in the lead role, it revolves around Helena, who tries to come to terms with her difficult past. The film largely follows her journey to protect her family from her convict father. Although she stays away from him for over twenty years, the past catches up with her in a disturbing way. The film largely explores her complicated relationship with her father and its impact on her new life. Besides Ridley, the cast of “The Marsh King’s Daughter” includes Ben Mendelsohn, Brooklynn Prince, Gil Birmingham, Caren Pistorius, and Garrett Hedlund. Spoilers ahead.

The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

What happens in The Marsh King’s Daughter?

“The Marsh King’s Daughter” is a psychological thriller starring Daisy Ridley in the lead role. It follows Helena, who has to contend with her difficult past after her father gets out of prison. The screenplay, written by Elle Smith & Mark L Smith, follows Helena’s journey since she was a kid – living in the wilderness tucked away from the outside world. We meet Young Helena (Brooklynn Prince), who used to live with Jacob Holbrook (Ben Mendelsohn) and her mother, Beth (Caren Pistrious). Helena liked spending time with Jacob and learning the necessary survival skills. We see her choose his company over Beth, who seems unhappy with her life.

One day, Helena saw Jacob carrying Beth out of the water. Was he trying to help her while she was drowning? She had no idea. Nevertheless, she held Jacob in high regard, who imbibed the importance of family in her mind. Because of this, she felt like she must do everything in her power to protect it. One day, Jacob left the cabin and refused to let her come along. Shortly after, a man drove an ATV bike up up to the cabin. He said he missed his trail and ended up there. Helena did not trust this outsider. Unlike her, Beth saw his arrival as an opportunity. She ran toward this man, hoping to escape. Moments later, a bullet hit the driver.

How does Helena and her mother escape the wilderness?

Jacob killed the stranger and then ran toward his bike. Beth tried to leave with Helena before Jacob could reach there. But Helena was so under Jacob’s influence that she ran toward him. So, Beth saw no other option but to hit her with a rock. Right after, she carried Helena to the bike and drove away. Once Helena regained consciousness, Beth told her the truth – Jacob had kept them captive in the woods for over a decade. However, Helena found it difficult to accept because she only admired that man. She escapes from the police station, hoping to reunite with him. Even though they manage to meet, the police find Jacob just in time. So, he got put behind bars for years and became known as the ‘Marsh King.’

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Does Helena’s father ever return in her life?

Decades later, we see Helena (Daisy Ridley) having cultivated a new life for herself. She lives with her husband, Stephen Pelletier (Garrett Hedlund) & their daughter Marigold (Joey Carson). Despite years of marriage, she had not revealed her real family name or spoken about her real identity. However, when Jacob escapes prison, it finally catches up to her. The authorities knock on her door, asking her whether she knows anything about Jacob’s whereabouts. They tell her that Jacob escaped with another inmate while being transported to another penitentiary.

The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Movie Ending Explained
Daisy Ridley in The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023)

That is the first time Stephen learns about Helena’s identity. He realizes that she is the infamous Marsh King’s Daughter. It upsets him that she kept such a big secret from him. Clark (Gil Birmingham) also comes to check up on her. After Jacob’s departure, he had become a father figure for her. While that happens, the police find a burned vehicle and claim one of the bodies is Jacob’s. She tries to process this news. Meanwhile, Stephen returns home with Marigold. He feels Helena should have told the truth sooner. So, she opens up to him about her traumatic past and why she felt the fear of abandonment. Eventually, they resolve their differences and patch up.

Why does Helena think that Jacob is alive?

Although the police reports say that Jacob is dead, Helena keeps feeling his presence around her. She keeps imagining him keeping a watch on her family. One night, she walks outside with a knife, thinking he is somewhere around the house. Initially, she feels that it is her mind playing tricks on her. However, she starts noticing some tangible changes in her life, which reminds her of him. Besides some dirt on her kitchen floor, she finds some stick figures in Marigold’s room – identical to the ones she used to play with as a kid. That solidifies her suspicion even further. So, she decides to return to the wild to fight back against her father and to save her new family.

The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

Does Helena meet her father?

Helena returns to the woods where she once lived with Beth & Jacob. She walks up to their cabin to finally find Jacob in flesh and blood. Despite all those years, he still has a strong emotional hold on her thought process. Even now, he tries to change her mind about him. He hugs her, and she finds a sense of comfort in that moment. But you can sense her questioning these feelings. Soon after, she finds Clark standing outside the cabin. He is there to shoot Jacob and protect her. However, Jacob manages to shoot him before he can do anything. After killing Clark, Jacob holds Helena by her hair and pulls her to a marsh pit. He does not even let her grieve her step-father’s loss.

How does Helena fight back against her father?

Jacob drags Helena to a marsh pit and throws her in. She remembers that he used to do the same when she was a child. He leaves her there until he brings Marigold so that they can be a family together. Although he undermines her strength, she manages to make her way out of the hole. Then, her memories guide her to find a rifle. She gets hold of it and decides to find her father. While using the skills he taught her, she finds him canoeing in the water. She shoots him but misses the mark. It alerts him of her presence. So, he rushes to hide in the woods and retaliate.

Jacob knows the things he taught Helena. He manages to use it against her and handcuffs her. Then, while walking her away, Helena confronts him about the past. She notes that her mother was stronger than he was. After recognizing his lack of remorse, she decides to trick him. She deliberately slips off the cliff’s edge and asks for his help. When he bends down, she wraps her hands around him and drags him down the creak with her. They both struggle to catch their breath and look for their guns. Before he can do anything, she shoots him in the head.

At the end of “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” Helena fights back against her father to protect her family. She feels a sense of catharsis and leaves to reunite with her husband and their child.

Read More: Where to Watch & Stream the Psychological Thriller Film ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’ by Neil Burger?


The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Movie Cast: Daisy Ridley, Ben Mendelsohn, Brooklynn Prince, Gil Birmingham, Caren Pistorius, Garrett Hedlund
The Marsh King’s Daughter (2023) Movie Genre: Mystery & thriller/Drama, Runtime: 1h 48m
Where to watch The Marsh King's Daughter

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