Doing press for his soon to be released film “Mermaid’s Lament”, director G.B. Hajim released a statement; “My son and I have anxiety. Without medication it can be unbearable at times. The one place we never feel anxious about is in the ocean. We freedive with large sharks, whales, and dolphins. We swim sometimes kilometers offshore without trepidation. We found other people that deal with anxiety and trauma with ocean therapy, mermaiding, or freediving.”
The director spoke with and studied people dealing with various traumas to develop this metaphysical and intoxicating drama that deals with one’s psyche through a rare purity and authenticity peppered with the magical.
Justina Mattos is Dr. Nell Jamison, a psychiatrist dealing with her own personal issues. The film reveals her to be suffering from a past familial tragedy. Jamison does her best to live a carefully curated and controlled life, staying in front of her thoughts. The good doctor (more tightly wound than she realizes) meets a young woman who calls herself Oee (Dayva Summer Escobar turning in a sweet performance). Unable to speak English, Oee declares to Jamison that she is a mermaid.
Rightfully assuming Oee is delusional, Dr. Jamison takes in the lost young girl, wanting to study her and help work through Oee’s untapped trauma. What follows is a carefully nuanced and well-written examination of two characters where what is real and what is perceived to be truth come together, creating a brittle balance. By going deeper into Oee’s psyche, Dr. Jamison begins to dig into her own past, as the two women’s futures become forever intertwined.
Setting the film’s ethereal tone from the beautiful opening underwater moments, Hajim infuses “Mermaid’s Lament” with some incredible imagery. The stunning Hawaiian landscapes become as important a character as Oee and Dr. Jamison.
As Ronn Murray and Roselio Hernandez’s camera follows Oee while she walks through the land, the young girl (finding her way to remembering her life) becomes one with the Earth and sky and oceans. Moving among the rocks, Oee’s existence breathes with the crashing of the waves. The poetic serenity of these moments earns comparison to Terence Malick’s philosophical bondings of humans and nature.
Hajim understands the connections between nature and humanity and knows how to communicate them through his unique visual palettes and philosophical narrations.
As Dr. Jamison studies Oee trying to get to her truth, G.B. Hajim’s screenplay uses the meeting of these two souls as representatives of the mysteries of human experience and soulful connection.
There are no easy answers regarding life and its hardships and Hajim’s screenplay doesn’t promise to solve them. The picture ends with an ambiguous vision regarding Oee and where she may or may not have come from but guides us to a deeper thinking about possibility and the wonder of it all.
Beautifully shot and crafted with a kind eye and a warm soul, “Mermaid’s Lament” stands as an artful vision, guiding its characters through their traumas, existing as a form of cinematic shaman.
As the screenplay tells us, “We swim into the eye of the storm… unafraid.” This is the mantra that can heal us all.
“Mermaid’s Lament” will screen at the TCL Chinese Theater this Sunday June 25, 2023, as part of the “Dances with Films” film festival in Hollywood.
Written & Directed by G.B. Hajim
Starring Dayva Summer Escobar & Justina Mattos
NR, 89 Minutes, Tween Sea & Sand Films