Mermaid’s Song, despite its whimsy name, is a dark spin on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. A rewind of the beloved Disney classic, a young girl discovers she’s got mermaid in her blood and a voice with a secret talent.
“Her story begins where the fairy tail ends.”
Set during the 1930s depression and tells of young Charlotte, who is struggling to keep the family business afloat. When gangster Randall offers to pay off the family debt – he demands some illegal changes to the business. But Charlotte, like her mother before her, is a mermaid capable of controlling humans with nothing but her voice, which creates a battle between all of those who want Charlotte’s magical powers for themselves.
A mermaid gives up her mermaidness to become human when she falls in love with a man. There’s always a price to pay, though, and debt comes calling once she’s settled into the life she’s built and loves. After committing suicide and being discovered by her youngest daughter, the mermaid’s family never recovers. Daddy somehow runs the family business (a brothel, apparently) into the ground, and the only way to save it (wait, what?) is to let the town’s gangster have his way with the women in the brothel.
Oh, did I forget to mention that the women are HIS DAUGHTERS?
Now a pre-teen, the youngest daughter, Charlotte, can only be spared from this part of the family’s business for so long. However, she discovers she’s a mermaid just in time to save herself. She effectively scares the shit out of the pervert, who still isn’t as disgusting as the father that allows this to happen to his daughters.
Charlotte also discovers the power of the Mermaid’s Song, and everything goes to hell. Everything. Though, to be honest, it felt like we were already headed there, anyway. The plot is hard to pinpoint and follow if you weren’t already familiar with The Little Mermaid. But there’s a downfall to having this prior knowledge, because now nothing makes sense. And then everything gets even more confusing in comparison to the very misleading trailer.
With so many storyline opportunities, Mermaid’s Song undeniably fails to deliver any solid plot for its viewers.
Sometimes the characters can make up for a plot that drags you around like a riptide through the seaweeds. But, no. These characters have as much depth as water in a seashell. Considering they’re all so predictable, it’s disappointing that there’s no surprise twist where one of them becomes a better human. Charlotte does grow – fins, and scales, and sharp teeth – but she also grows in terms of strength and some maturity. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make up for the lack of growth from her sisters, her sad-excuse-for-a-human father, and the endless men eager to take up space in the brothel. Even Charlotte’s grandmother has us feeling like we can predict the future. She does an excellent job of being creepy, but isn’t so good at hiding her own motives when she appears to be helping her granddaughter come to terms with who she is.
You know how you add those “Great Depression” and “Dustbowl” filters on Insta to give your pics that artsy, faded, discolored hue? Well, it comes across much better for this movie, but it’s only effective in letting us know what time period it’s set in. The biggest disappointment is another failure to deliver the hype. We only see Charlotte as the mermaid twice, and each time it’s brief, which sucks, because these scenes are what you expected from the movie. They also aren’t half as bad as the rest of the film, but let’s be real. All the hype about mermaids, and this movie has three tiny scenes with mermaids (including Charlotte’s mermom).
WHAT?! I can’t hear you over the Victrola that never stops playing. Though, I think I figured out why Daddy is in debt. All that wasted electricity because no one can seem to remember to turn off the blessed Victrola. Even Charlotte’s Siren songs get outdone by the volume of jazz music constantly playing to remind us it’s the 1930s.
Cited as horror, there are plenty of creepy moments to back this up, but Mermaid’s Song is more a coming-of-age drama. The experiences and situations Charlotte is forced to endure are pretty horrific, though, and these scenes are what gives this movie a “Mature Audience” rating.
There’s nothing you’re missing out on by skipping this movie, unless you think you can challenge my words. Believe me, I was very optimistic about this movie, even thinking it could pick up in the last 30 or 20 minutes. I was not so hopeful and angrily disappointed by the last 15 minutes. I’m sorry, I wish I could say it was worth the watch, but if you’re expecting anything relevant to Anderson’s original, you won’t find it in “Mermaid’s Song.”