Top critical review
1 December 2018
I had really been looking forward to seeing this film. It had so many elements I thought I would love—the focus on water, a director who’s work I have enjoyed in the past, a monster love story, inclusive casting; all of these things sounded great on paper. I had wanted to see it in the cinema but for whatever reason I never had the time, and only now FINALLY got the chance to see it, only to be disappointed. The premise was great, some of the cinematography was lovely, but the plot, as others have said, was very simple and transparent, and there was no real or complicated connection between the characters. Beauty and the Beast does a far better job of conveying love and feelings developing in unlikely situations, and it’s a kid’s film. Feeding the merman some eggs and playing him some music hardly equates to a deep and meaningful connection. Both the merman and the main female character desperately needed fleshing out in terms of their characterisation if we were expected to believe in their relationship and feel any emotion towards, or investment in, them. Yes, it could be argued that her being some kind of aquatic creature herself ignited an immediate bond between them, but this film didn’t capture that, and it felt lazy. The makings of interesting characterisation was there, but it just never came into being. The merman was basically Abe Sapien from Hellboy, but with a fraction of the personality (in fact, Hellboy does a better job at meaningful connection across unusual boundaries, and was more fun to watch to boot). The main villain was just vile for the sake of being vile, and like most of the other characters in the film, lacked depth. The homophobia scene was just clumsily thrown in there for no reason rather than being dealt with in a meaningful manner, or having any relevance to the plot. All around, the ‘inclusive casting’ felt more like shallow stereotyping, to me.
I also felt as though the violence in this film was jarring. I’m not opposed to violence in films, I enjoy action and horror, and torture scenes are fine by me in the right context, but in the context of this particular film, alongside what was clearly supposed to be a tender romance and a transcendence of barriers (which also fell flat), it just felt ugly and uncomfortable somehow.
The scene where the bathroom was filled with water was also just silly—if it was that simple I’d flood my bathroom all the time and swim around in there to my heart’s content! And why they couldn’t just take the merman to any stretch of ocean was a mystery And yes, I know it’s a fantasy film, but there has to be enough of an element of believability in there to keep the illusion afloat. This film, alas, lacked that element.
All in all it just felt rather flat, disconnected, and empty. Pretty, but vacuous and predictable. I didn’t feel any emotional connection to any of the characters. I was disappointed enough to come here and write all of this because I was expecting something far more skilful with far more depth, but this film sadly does not deliver.