My first thought when I heard about this film was: “a European film about carnivorous mermaids? Awesome!” I was expecting to see exposed breasts and mermaids seducing men and women, then ripping their throats out and dragging their bodies into the water.
Unfortunately, this only happened once, which disappointed me greatly. The “gore” in the film was mostly emotional in nature — the conflict more fluffy. It was mostly a film about growing up as a woman; experiencing your first love, having your first heartbreak, and about the strain that growing up places on a relationship with a sister. Stylistically, the film is like nothing I’ve ever seen. It’s a mashup of horror, musical, fantasy, comedy, thriller, drama, and tragedy genres. Yet, I think we can more effectively characterize it with a single one: anti-romance.
The plot of The Lure follows two mermaid sisters, Silver and Golden, and their debut as singers in a sleazy Polish nightclub. Right at the start, we learn that Silver is the more tender sister of the two, and Golden, the more blood-thirsty and ruthless one. The bulk of the story is pulled by Silver, as she falls in love with the bassist of the band. This really sets the tone for the rest of the film as it becomes more drama than thriller, more romance than horror.
As stated by director Agnieszka Smoczyńska in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, this was primarily meant to be a coming-of-age story, inspired by her own childhood. Her mother had owned two nightclubs in Poland, so she had grown up in a similar environment. This is probably why she gravitated towards this script, written by the Polish screenwriter Robert Bolesto.
While we are immersed in Silver’s romance, the exploration of Golden’s story remains pretty shallow throughout. All we really know about Golden is that she yearns to be back in the ocean eating people, as is natural for a mermaid. When Golden and Silver initially come to the nightclub, Golden negotiates with her sister saying, “We’ll only stay here for a bit and then return to the ocean, right?” In another scene, Golden stares forlornly at a tacky picture of a tropical ocean scene hanging on the wall in a bathroom.
While Silver’s romance is developing, Golden tries to stop her, telling her it’s foolish and the wrong thing to do. Eventually, when Silver gives up her voice for the sake of love, Golden is distraught and can’t understand the sacrifice. Golden wasn’t looking for love and probably never will.
Since this film is supposed to be a coming-of-age story, we should expect that the experiences of the girls are universally understandable. With this frame of mind, it appears that the film gives two depictions of archetypical narratives for girl-growing-up: either she devotes her life to a man and becomes sea foam, or she grows into a cold-hearted bitch devouring anyone who crosses her. Neither prospect is especially appealing, which leads me to believe that the point made by the film is that it’s best not to frame the experience of growing up into a woman in terms of love, as it so often is.