The Lure is a retelling of the timeless story The Little Mermaid set in 1980s Poland featuring young mermaids who prey on humans and perform at nightclubs as singers and strippers. It is also a coming-of-age story.
This ludicrously bizarre premise for a film came upon as a result of a collaboration between first-time film director Agnieszka Smoczyńska and screenwriter Robert Bolesto. Her mother an owner of a nightclub, Smoczyńska wanted to create a film that echoed a number of her experiences growing up from the taste of her first cigarette to her first “important feeling for a boy”. Meanwhile, Bolesto wanted to write a story based on the experiences of two of his friends who would frequent nightclubs in the 80s. The title of their film Córki dancingu, translates roughly to ‘Daughters of the Dance Club’, a modification on The Little Mermaid’s working title ‘Daughters of the Air’. More likely than not the title was changed to The Lure, the name of the mermaids’ musical act, when making it across the pond so the film would be granted more serious critical consideration.
Golden (Michalina Olszańska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek), the two mermaids, come ashore in Poland on their way to America. In water they are as mermaids, but they can walk as people when out of the water. Golden and Silver are recruited as backup singers and strippers by cabaret singer Krysia (Kinga Preis), but soon quickly perform as an act of their own. During a visit to a shopping mail to buy human clothing, the scene is quickly elevated to an upbeat, optimistic musical sequence about assimilating into a human-like lifestyle.
Synth-pop music in The Lure created by the Polish band Ballady i Romanse revolves around themes of love, belongingness, and loneliness that are central to many teenage girls. A few of the songs have grim, tragic undertones that contrast well with the mermaids’ anthemic voices.
Both of the mermaids experience loneliness as ‘fish out of water’ in a human world. Silver falls in love with bass player Mietek (Jakub Gierszał) (there’s probably an underlying joke here), but he is resistant to her advances because she is a mermaid and he regards her as being more fish than human. She desires his love and wants to exchange her tail for legs through a transplant. She is warned by Triton (Marcin Kowalczyk), a fellow sea creature who poses as a band leader, that she will lose her voice if she removes her tail and that she will dissolve into sea foam if her love leaves her for another woman. Golden attempts to dissuade Silver from falling in love by reminding Silver of their nature as mermaids, and not humans, through exhibits of violence in killing people. But Golden is also lonely as shown in perhaps the film’s most lingering musical sequence.
The sound design of The Lure is worthy of praise for invoking shifts of tone as original songs give way to atmospheric sound as well as for blending the sirens of the mermaids (how Golden and Silver can communicate without other’s notice) into scenes. The key drawback of The Lure falls on a guilty third act and issues of pacing. At a crisp 93 minutes, time could’ve been afforded to generating greater understanding and empathy for characters’ decisions, particularly in the film’s final half-hour. Nonetheless, The Lure is an outrageously fun- and outrageously depressing- portrayal of young love that can be treasured for its oddness even if not executed to peak effect.