If you’re a fan of late-night shopping channels and 90’s FMV video games, then A Mermaid’s Tale is a film to watch out for. Caitlin Carmichael puts in an admirable performance as Ryan, a gregarious, emotionally intelligent youngster trapped in a world dominated by adults who seem utterly unable to communicate their simplest feelings. Also, there are mermaids.
A Mermaid’s Tale has its faults, but it absolutely cannot be accused of keeping its viewers in suspense. The first act is spent building the mystery of the local town’s dwindling fishing supply. The movie’s ensemble characters then immediately begin blaming each other. Ryan’s grandfather Art (Barry Bostwick) blames the mermaids, the mermaids blame the fishermen. Ryan’s father Matt (Jerry O’Connell) blames Art. Ryan blames everybody. The film’s major theme, if such grand language is applicable here, is loss. The conspicuous absence of Ryan’s mother is played on throughout the film, and lingers as a plausible explanation for her father’s decision to uproot the family and re-join Ryan’s father on his fishing boat.
Early on in the film it becomes clear that there’s something special about Ryan – her ability to hold hear breath for Olympian amounts of time with very little training notwithstanding. On a casual meander at the local harbour she spontaneously saves a mermaid who has become trapped in some netting. This mermaid, named Coral and played by Sydney Scotia, explains that she became trapped in an attempt to sabotage some fishing nets, in order to prevent Santa Carla’s fishermen from catching their only source of income. Ryan immediately and casually tosses aside her own family’s complete reliance on fishing, and cheerily begins helping coral undermine her grandfather’s struggling business.
The film looks like it was shot with a budget of £25 and a borrowed quadcopter, and the visual effects are a masterclass in what can be achieved with a copy of Adobe Premiere Pro and thirty metres of green linen. Presumably expending the vast majority of their budget on hiring Bostwick and O’ Connell, underwater scenes are reduced to the quality of an amateur Youtube video, complete with poor Carmichael and Scotia wiggling awkwardly in place while the universe moves around them. The second-act baking scene with Ryan and Jenna (Jaimi Paige) appears uncannily like a late-night infomercial, and combines with sweeping drone shots and Lucas-esque CGI totalities to form a bewildering collage of cinematographic choices.
A Mermaid’s Tale’s music is generic and uninspired, and the sound editing in the film leaves a lot to be desired. Musical crescendos appear almost at random, and the auditory emotional cues are so ham-fisted that you’ll feel like you’re watching an episode of Britain’s Got Talent. The very first coastal scene contains some unfortunately inaccurate dub work; one assumes that the noise of the backwash interfered with the dialogue during filming. The timing is right, but the sound-mixing shatters the illusion.
Director: Dustin Rikert.
Writers: Fred Hogge, Rafael Jordan.
Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Barry Bostwick, Caitlin Carmichael.
Producers: Milan Freidrich, Oren Kamara, Tiiu Loigu, Dustin Rikert, William Shockley, Lawrence Silverstein, Jamie R. Thompson.
DOP: A. J. Raitaino.
A Mermaid’s Tale is available on DVD and digital download now.