Our Free For All theme sees us enter mermaid territory this week with a Swiss coming-of-age body horror – which frankly couldn’t be more up our street.
I feel not much more is needed by way of intro so let’s have at it right away, yeah?
BLUE MY MIND (2017)
An outwardly normal teenage girl faces overwhelming body transformations that put the very nature of her existence into question.
Director: Lisa Brühlmann
Starring: Luna Wedler, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror ∙ IMDB user rating: 6.1
My score: 4/5 ∙ Runtime: 97 mins
15-year-old Mia Weber (Wedler) is new to Zurich, having moved there with her family when dad took a new job. As she settles into her new school things look a little shaky to start, but take a turn when she gets involved with a circle of girls, lead by Gianna (Holthuizen).
The girls are advanced for their years, experimenting freely with drugs, sex and minor misdemeanors, like shoplifting – and as such are considered problem teens. Keen to fit in, Mia takes to these activities like a duck to water. This pulls her further away from her parents but she argues most violently with her mother.
At the same time, Mia notices her toes have started fusing together as if webbed. Her doctor is baffled about what could cause this as the condition is congenital, not something that appears in just a few weeks. This isn’t the only change she’s experiencing: she starts craving water with heaps of salt in it – and also eats two of her mother’s pet goldfish, which does not go down well.
Or rather, they do, which is the problem.
These changes, which are clearly more than just puberty based, add to the general woe of Mia’s life. Noticing there are no pictures of her mother pregnant with her – and that she bears no resemblance to her parents – she vows to find out the truth. Meanwhile, the partying between friends gets more excessive and Mia becomes sexually active – though there’s an undertone to her friendship with Gianna that suggests they could be more.
Her body transformation also picks up speed as her lower half grows scaly and she develops what looks suspiciously like gills. Freaking out but also doing what any self-respecting teenager would do – hiding it – she keeps on swimming. But following a traumatic party situation, Mia finds herself caught between a (sea) rock and a hard place (land).
What will become of this poor girl, all her wants, needs and dreams?
I loved this and not just because it’s a mermaid tale. It looks beautiful, and the practical effects and horror elements are very simple yet effective. They’re also subtle and while the final reveal is no secret, its not given away too easily or too soon, which helps build tension.
All the performances are very naturalistic but it’s our leading lady that carries it. Wedler is mesmerising, commanding the screen and securing my sympathy right away, even when acting like your typical teenage nightmare. I also enjoy the chemistry between Mia and Gianna, which reminds me of the blurred lines between love and something more from my own adolescent friendships.
Maybe it’s a little flimsy on narrative but in fairness this is a rumination on growing up so I don’t think it needs extra action. The fantasy elements are a metaphor for the alienation we feel as we evolve from child to adult and also captures the horror and fear of inevitable body change (and general life) perfectly.
The ending is bittersweet but matches the opening well, alluding to something deeper in Mia’s future. Man, how I wished I was a mermaid as a kid. In reality, or at least as showcased by Blue My Mind, this comes with its own set of icks and probably isn’t really my cup of tea.
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