Mermaid (Rusalka) Directed by: Anna Melikyan Cast: Masha Shalayeva, Yevgeni Tsyganov, Mariya Sokova Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins Rating: Unrated
32nd Portland International Film Festival Country: Russia English?: Nope. Subtitled.
Plot: Alice (Shalayeva) grows up in a small seaside village where she attends a school for the mentally disabled because she refuses to speak. But after moving to Moscow with her family, she meets Sasha (Tsyganov). She saves his life, falls in love with him and becomes his housekeeper to get close to him.
Who’s It For? Mermaid is a sophisticated fairytale. Adults and older teens who don't mind subtitles and like a bit of magical realism should really enjoy this film.
I've seen a few Russian movies in my day, and Mermaid isn't like any of them. Sure, it's a little dark, but also surprisingly light and magical. The film begins with Alice's conception and gets more unlikely from there. She's mute, grants wishes, dyes her hair green, gets advice from billboards and falls in love with a man she pulls out of a river. But it's not the events that define this film, it's the tone. Shalyeva uses her whole body to telegraph expressions. She spends whole scenes dressed as a cellphone walking around Moscow and through voice and body language we're still with her. She's a very unusual looking actress, with a long face, high forehead and pale skin. But Alice is an unusual girl.
Melikyan's a director with a strong voice. From the washed out seaside colors to the vibrancy of the city, she gives the film a very distinctive look. The music, the shots of billboards telling Alice what to do, the daydreams she has, it all creates a full and unique picture. But it's not just pretty shots and quirkiness, Mermaid has a great story. When Alice meets Sasha and starts to follow him around your heart might break a little. She's a happy-go-lucky follower of fate; he sells real estate on the moon by day and drinks himself into oblivion while chatting up supermodels at night. He's a new Russian and she's definitely an old world kind of girl. But hell, that's what romance is. When I saw Sasha in Alice's daydreams, I fell in love with him a little, too.
The only thing I didn't love about this movie is the ending. It's not terrible, but I didn't think we were going there. Still, this is a movie I won't be forgetting anytime soon.
Two showings on Tuesday the 10th, one at 6pm and one at 8:45pm
Final Score: 8/10