Largely decent whimsical, off-kilter Russian doodad.

Released in 2007, certified UK-Not Yet Rated. Reviewed on 09 Jul 2008 by Scott Morris
Mermaid image

This Russian film, which again I reiterate I welcome seeing for further exposure to their whacky alphabet, occupies something of a unique niche as far as this year's EIFF coverage goes. Everything else, as far as my now addled and confuddled memory allows me to be certain of, fell into one of two distinct categories. I either Liked This Film, or Did Not Like This Film. And in two instances, Did Not Like This Film With A Vengeance. Mermaid is therefore unique in as much as I'm Not Entirely Sure What I Make Of This Film.

The press releases seem rather keen to liken this to Amelie, which I feel compelled to correct straight off the bat. Well, actually, I can see some thematic resemblance but in terms of quality I wouldn't go getting your hopes up. Following the life of Alisa (Masha Shalaeva), a young girl living by the sea with her corpulent mother and decrepit grandmother. After some dilly-dallying with her life as a six year old, she discovers that she has the power to make her wishes come true. Sort of. In one of those 'be careful what you wish for' kind of ways. One of the things she should have been careful about what she wished, having now had another twelve years to think about things, was about leaving her small town, as this results in a tidal wave that wipes out the whole town, leaving her family with no option but to decamp to Moscow.

I have, seemingly, managed to miss out one of the more important elements of the film, which is to say that her six year old incarnation decided to simply stop talking, for reasons that currently escape me but may have had something to do with her father's continued absence and her mother's forceful disabusing of Anna of the dream that he father will ever show up. Alisa's dreams, incidentally, we are shown, have much the same colour scheme as the covers for prog rock noodlers Yes. This is of little importance to things as a whole, but serves as a useful distraction from my grievous prior omission.

Taking a job as a giant walking foam mobile phone advertising thingy (I think that was the job description), she wanders around observing humanity around her up until the point she sees Sasha (Yevgeniy Tsyganov) taking a running jump off a bridge. Diving in after him, she drags him to safety and immediately falls in love and decides to talk again, although the love is not not reciprocated. Seemingly waking up the next day haven forgotten all about this, Sasha goes off to his day job selling plots of land on the moon, giving Alisa a part time job as cleaner.

The general theme of the piece is Alisa trying to get Sasha to notice her in that special way, in the process becoming friends slash enemies with Sasha's existing girlfriend, this is largely hampered by his seemingly inherent anti-social character, or at least a deep seated unhappiness with his life. This never really feels like the focus of the film, as it keeps heading off down side tracks of her mother's attempt to get the attentions of the butcher in the supermarket she works in and Alisa's friendship with a ballsy, shouty double leg amputee on a skateboard. Then with little warning or sense of conclusion to the film, it ends, unexpectedly, abruptly and atonally.

There's nothing much wrong with that, although it did leave me rather dazed when walking out of the cinema struggling to try and grasp what the point of the film was. After much, or at least some, though I've come to the conclusion that there wasn't one, really, but there's nothing much wrong with that.

Masha Shalaeva proves to be a charismatic enough lead, and the light hearted, dare I say it, whimsical tone taken throughout is enough to keep a hold of my attention albeit without ever tripping over into being more than something that's keeping me occupied for a few hours rather than, say, the enormously uplifting experiences of Ameile which makes me glad to be alive.

If you plug this into the official Good-O-Meter it seems to oscillate between 'decent' and 'pretty good', so let's leave it at that and go about our business.

Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 3/5 TippyMarks.

Anna Melikian
Cast list:
Masha Shalaeva (Alisa)
Yevgeniy Tsyganov (Sasha)