Fantasia International Film Festival: A Mermaid in Paris (2020) reviewed by Jonathan Berk

Every once a while a movie will just smash you over the head and you’ll fall instantly in love, as though you’re under some hypnotic trance from a siren song. Most likely, you hope for this to happen every time you sit down to watch a movie, as you are committing both your time and mental energy to watching it. Well, A Mermaid in Paris (2020) – which is playing as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival – did just that, by combining elements that appear to come from Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s style and a familiar story seen in children’s fairytales, or the Academy Award-winning film, The Shape of Water (2017).

Gaspard (Nicolas Duvauchelle) is a quirky singer who has given up on the idea of love. He discovers a mermaid (Marilyn Lima) who is injured and has washed up onshore. In attempting to rescue her, Gaspard inadvertently causes another man’s death as the result of her hypnotic love song. He takes her home and fills up his tub, and the two begin to learn more about one another.

This movie is unbelievably charming. Much of this has to do with Duvauchelle’s performance as Gaspard. He is extremely likable, and a natural person with whom the audience can connect.. You feel for him and his longing for panache – a concept that gets fleshed out in the story. It makes sense that he would find the wonder of a mermaid to be so appealing. The chemistry between Lima and Duvauchelle is essential to believe that these Ocean-crossed lovers could be a thing. Luckily for the audience, there is plenty of chemistry, and it is hard not to want them to end up together…a question that is definitely at the heart of the narrative. 

There is a wealth of quirky humor embedded into nearly every moment of the film. That’s not to say there are no stakes, but the stakes never feel heavy-handed or over the top. There is an antagonist who is pursuing the mermaid, but the motivation of that feels entirely on point. Thus, the film can move lightly, and make every moment as enchanting as Gaspard’s pop-up book. The colors, the style of the production, and the way the characters speak all feel fun and wondrous. There was pure cinematic joy pouring from this film. 

A Mermaid in Paris is instant love for me. It aligned with many of my sensibilities, and reminded me of two favorite films – but it also felt like its own thing, which is an important distinction that must be made for a movie to feel familiar yet fresh. The performances were a standout, and I’m happy to recommend everyone give this film a watch. A Mermaid in Paris earns the Must See rating.

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