★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Lisa Brühlmann
Two great tastes that go great together: Teen coming-of-age movies and body horror. Blue my Mind explores a Swiss girl’s trying to fit into a new school while slowly metamorphosing into something beastly.
It’s a natural combination. The fear of monstrous body changes both normal and highly abnormal. Mia (Luna Wedler, Streaker) doesn’t know it yet, but she’s a mermaid, and as her subtle behavioral and physical changes, her self consciousness gets the better of her and she keeps these things a secret. For all the women out there who ever wished they had the Ariel experience in reverse, well this might dissuade some of those thoughts.
Mia is also going through a rough patch with her parents, bristling at their simple questions, and she is desperately wanting to be part of the cool kids’ clique at her school. And as is true with many girls coming of age films, these young women are capricious, cruel, and undeniably pretty (and petty). A similarly themed movie that I recently watched, Mon Mon Mon Monsters!, had similar themes of the outcast trying to become one of the cool kids. Unlike that Taiwanese film, however, Mia manages to win over the bad girls of her school.
The naughtiness of risk-taking and boundary-pushing comes naturally to Mia, and she quickly wins over the alpha female of the pack of mischief-makers, Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen), who is brazen, beautiful, and controls the social dynamic of their school. Soon, Mia and Gianna are bonded, trusting each other as they engage in drugs, sex, and well… more drugs and sex.
Eventually, though, Mia’s metamorphosis becomes something difficult to hide. She confides in a doctor, but that becomes a dead-end, and she confronts her mother believing her mom and dad are not really her parents, and there are suggestions through the storytelling that seem to lend credence to her suspicions. She resists her early forms of transformation, such as cutting out the emerging webbing between her toes (OUCH!) and hiding her legs that are beginning to bruise, molt, and generally look like a horrific massive rash.
Thematically, the film reminds me a bit of Ginger Snaps. A teenage girl finding her way through her emerging sexuality at the same time as she’s going through a bestial transformation. These films cry out with the “What’s happening to me?!?” moment that stokes the hormones and fears of adolescent girls everywhere.
The movie also bears the marks of the current wave of European horror films, like Raw, Goodbye Mommy, Beast, and Let the Right One In. These are largely quiet films, dramatic studies first, that draw the horror out slowly. In fact, I would suggest that this is actually much more of a very dark fantasy tale rather than a true horror movie, as Mia is more of a risk to herself than she is to others. This film was featured at last year’s Overlook Film Festival, and though light on the violence and gore, there is plenty of “ick” factor, and it proved that it belonged in that collection of genre titles that Overlook curated.
This is director Lisa Brühlmann’s first feature film, and it immediately launches her into a director to watch going forward. When a director comes out with a coming-of-age film early in their careers, you have to suspect there is a bit of an autobiographical edge to it. And, in an interview with the website MEAWW, she reveals that she took a lot of her own life experiences, and the shame and aggressive self-destructive behavior.
The movie left me feeling cold, and I don’t know that I ever really enjoyed the movie, though it kept my attention. This movie has a whole lot of lonely built into it, and at the conclusion, that feeling is pervasive. Her transformation complete, you wonder what the rest of Mia’s life will be like.
The scariest parts of this movie also had nothing to do with her physical change into a creature, but instead, with some of the terrible decisions Mia makes with drugs, booze, and sex. Though the movie features teenagers, be warned, this is not a movie particularly suited for impressionable young teens. There is definitely a hard edge to this film.
Both Wedler and Holthuizen both exhibit great charisma and can hold a frame exquisitely. The Swiss movie industry isn’t exactly a juggernaut, so I would be curious to see if either of these actresses start seeing work in more widely distributed films from France, England, or the US.
I would be curious to know what our female fans think of this movie. I suspect it is a much more compelling movie for women than men, as the themes are so very tied to female fears.
Blue My Mind is Rated R, for strong sexual content, drug use, and language. It is available for streaming on Amazon.