A Mermaid In Paris


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

A Mermaid In Paris
"You can get a way with a lot when you deliver it with this much panache." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

The beguiling and the deadly walk hand and hand in the myth of the mermaid - and Mathias Malzieu retains both elements as he offers a fishy twist on romantic comedy in A Mermaid In Paris. His quirky offering, which boasts handsome production and costume design, bears the strong influence of French fantasy film director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, with every detail finessed - from rubber ducks to T-shirts.

Lula (Marilyn Lima) is the mermaid in question, heard before she is seen - singing her song in the Seine and luring unsuspected men to their deaths in the water. Moored near her killzone is the Flowerburger barge - a restaurant that has a hidden club below decks, accessed only if you know the right phrase. It's there that the rather lonely and unlucky in love Gaspard (Nicolas Duvauchelle) - the son of the owner - croons for the punters of an evening. Gaspard has been raised by "Surprisers" who embrace the wilder boundaries of imagination -illustrated by a pop-up book that springs into life when opened. All of which means he is remarkably unfazed when he comes across Lula, injured, on the slipway one evening, quickly trading his rollerskates for a Tuk-Tuk - it's that sort of film - so he can take her to hospital.

Things don't go well and after doctor Victor (Alexis Michalik) finds his heart can't take being in proximity to Lula, Gaspard bundles her back home to his bath. Gaspard, it seems, is immune to the mermaid's killer charms - making for a decent well of humour - but the two of them are soon embarked on an unlikely romance, all under the watchful scrutiny of Gaspard's nosey neighbour Rossy (Spanish star and Pedro Almodóvar regular Rossy de Palma).

That her tail looks more like something from a Baz Luhrmann film than part of an actual fish only adds to the general charm of a film that's strength lies in the odd couple at its heart - a charm that is likely to carry it from genre festivals like Fantasia 2020 to an art house in the longer term. Its humour stems from the little things - like Lula chewing on soap or pushing fish-shaped fish fingers around a plate. And you can feel Malzieu and his experienced cinematographer Virginie Saint Martin's love of detail and colour, from the rain-drenched streets of Paris to the burnished browns and sea-inspired blues that dominate the look.

The story, sadly, proves to be somewhat secondary to all this - with a subplot involving Victor's other half Milena (Rohmane Bohringer) leading to a last act chase that the film neither needs nor benefits from, with Malzieu ultimately struggling to make the darker elements of mermaid lore sit flush with the warmth of the romance he has generated. Still, if not everything works all the time, it's not for want of trying and, as Gaspard would probably tell you, you can get a way with a lot when you deliver it with this much panache.

Reviewed on: 01 Sep 2020
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A Mermaid In Paris packshot
A man rescues a mermaid and gradually falls in love with her.

Director: Mathias Malzieu

Writer: Stéphane Landowski, Mathias Malzieu

Starring: Nicolas Duvauchelle, Marilyn Lima, Rossy de Palma, Romane Bohringer, Alexis Michalik

Year: 2020

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: France


Fantasia 2020

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