[Fantasia 2020] A MERMAID IN PARIS -- A Charming and Visually Grand Romance That Catches You Under Its Spell
Review by Sean Boelman
The sophomore feature and live-action debut of French musician-turned-filmmaker Mathias Malzieu, A Mermaid in Paris shares many of the same delightful qualities as his much-loved Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart. Best described as either a zanier version of The Shape of Water or a Burton-esque take on Splash, this is a film that is simply lovable.
Inspired by the myth of the Sirens, the movie follows a musician who, after discovering an injured mermaid in the Parisian rivers, finds himself immune to her song until he slowly begins to fall in love with her. It’s admittedly a bit conventional in nature, another example of star-crossed lovers, but it’s irresistibly charming nevertheless.
Some viewers may be left unsatisfied by how rushed the film is. It’s really not very long, and so Malzieu and co-writer Stéphane Landowski find themselves sprinting through certain parts of the relationship, seemingly in an attempt to wrap everything up in a concise runtime. However, this also comes at the expense of a lot of great jokes that the writers obviously have up their sleeve but are never really utilized.
Still, there are plenty of excellent moments throughout that will win most of the audience over. The movie is at its best when it’s a literal fish-out-of-water comedy. Granted, other mermaid tales have done very similar things in the past, but Malzieu and Landowski find plenty of funny situations in which to place the duo.
The film does some really interesting things with its characters. The approach that the writers take to the Siren myth is interesting because they question the motivation that the character has for their deadly song, creating a compellingly flawed character out of a typical villain. Her human co-star is a little less exceptional, a standard but charismatic cynic who must grow a heart.
Nicolas Duvauchelle and Marilyn Lima are both excellent in their roles. Their chemistry together is phenomenal, but they also add a lot to their respective characters individually. Duvauchelle has a very natural screen presence that lends the character a magnetic aura, and Lima lends a lot of vulnerability to her part.
The visuals of the movie are expectedly what stands out the most, though. It’s a gorgeous film, taking the magical realism elements of the script and bringing them to life in a way that is aesthetically complex. Both of Malzieu’s movies have had a very distinctive style to them, almost a quirky gothicness, and it lends itself well to this story.
A Mermaid in Paris does mostly stick to romantic fantasy conventions, but it’s such a charming and visually-alluring film that one can’t help but get caught in its spell. It’s a wholesome and uplifting romance that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
A Mermaid in Paris screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2. An encore screening (geoblocked to Canada) occurs on August 30 at 1pm.