Pouty, pretty new girl at school Mia (Luna Wedler) longs to be part of the cool crowd led by glamorous wild child Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen). One afternoon Mia grabs her chance to join Gianna and her gal pals while they hang out at the mall, try on makeup and shoplift a few choice items. Yet Mia has a secret: lately, her body has been undergoing strange changes even more extreme than is normal for a sixteen year old girl. Her toes fuse together, weird bruises adorn her legs and she develops a ravenous appetite for raw fish straight from the tank. Even as Mia’s relationship grows closer with a concerned Gianna she is haunted by visions of herself swimming serenely underwater. Along with the nagging sense she does not belong on dry land.
From folkloric temptresses to fairytale heroines, mermaids have latterly evolved into pop cultural identification figures for a generation of teenage girls. It is no accident Disney's animated adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid (1989) remains a perennial favourite. Here Swiss director Lisa Brühlmann refashions the mermaid myth into a flawed but fascinating coming of age allegory. With its first act grounded in relatable reality akin Céline Sciamma's incisive studies of teen girl life Water Lillies (2007) and Girlhood (2014), Blue My Mind flirts with both Cronenbergian body horror and Lynchian dreamscapes. Yet its heart lies foremost in paralleling Mia's gradual awakening to her supernatural nature with the regular pain, confusion, heartache and restlessness that comes from simply being a teenage girl. Caught in the midst of tumultuous mental and physical changes, barely able to make sense of it all.
In a vain search for some semblance of reassuring normality, Mia dives headfirst into the usual teenage vices: drug-fuel'd parties and casual sex. She flirts with an older man online and hooks up with a succession of unfulfilling high school oafs, inevitably hurting herself even as it becomes increasingly obvious the real object of her affection is Gianna. While the film is admirably non-judgmental in its depiction of youthful indiscretions it proves strangely reticent about pursuing the girls’ relationship to its logical conclusion, despite signposting it at every turn. As coming of age allegories go, Blue My Mind is fairly obvious. It does not really say anything especially profound beyond adolescence leaves you angry, confused, horny and miserable until you wind up feeling like a freak. Yet through it all Brühlmann's delicate treatment and the excellent performances of charismatic leads Luna Welder and Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen result in an absorbing fable, by turns harrowing and lyrical, that suggests growing up is to plunge into the great blue beyond.