Review: The King's Daughter

Many movies have struggled with delays due to the ongoing pandemic, but none have had quite as harrowing of a release schedule as The King's Daughter. Completed in 2014, the movie was initially named The Moon and the Sun after the 1997 novel it was based on by Vonda N. McIntyre. It was set for a 2015 release that got canceled by Paramount at the last minute due to issues with the special effects, most likely the underwater scenes with the mermaid in particular. In 2020, the title was changed to The King's Daughter with the incomparable Julie Andrews brought on as a narrator, but there was still no release date in sight. The long wait finally ended this weekend, and I am pleased to say that The King's Daughter is a film well worth waiting for. It is one of the best mermaid movies I have ever seen, and I love that it takes the story in its own direction that veers away from the tired "Little Mermaid" reimaginings that feature a mermaid falling in love with a human man like Splash or Aquamarine.

The King's Daughter Poster

The king's daughter, Marie-Josephe, was brought up in a convent for most of her life similar to the princess who married the prince at the end of "The Little Mermaid" until King Louis XIV invited her to live in the opulent palace of Versailles under the guise of the new court composer. However, that is where the similarities to the famous mermaid-centric fairy tale end. Instead of a catty love triangle, Marie discovers the magical mermaid trapped in the dungeons of Louis's palace and bonds with her instantly due to their shared ability to use music to communicate. When she learns that the mermaid is a prisoner who was separated from her underwater family, she begs the king to release her. King Louis's greed over the promise of immortality overshadows his love for his illegitimate daughter, and he continues his plans to slay the mermaid in secret so he can use her heart to rule over France forever. It is only through the help of a loyal priest and an adventuresome sea captain that Marie has any hope of escaping the prison that she and the mermaid are trapped in.

The King's Daughter is that it takes popular fairy tale tropes and enhances them in a way that sets tit apart from other movies with similar themes and ideas. Even though it has a traditional storybook opening narrated by Julie Andrews like Enchanted, it doesn't take place in a generic faraway kingdom. Instead, it is set in the palace of Versailles, a real place that I have been to, under the rule of Louis XIV, a real king. This setting makes it feel even more authentic and grounded in the historical elements of the film. It truly does justice to the sweeping gardens and countless golden statues embedded throughout the palace with its many scenes that were shot on location in France. Like Anastasia, Marie-Josephe is a lonely girl who thinks she is an orphan until she learns that she is secretly a princess and is forced into an arranged marriage like Jasmine. However, Marie is not a generic princess heroine. She is an individual, defined by her talent for composing beautiful music and her equally beautiful heart that she expresses through her desire to free the mermaid.

I loved the way that the mermaid was presented as well. Played by a Chinese actress named Bingbang Fan, the mythical being is unable to communicate with words, similar to the sea creature from The Shape of Water. Her desire for freedom is made clear through her beautiful song and her story. She too has a heart as big as the ocean, for she is willing to use her powerful healing magic on the very humans who hold her captive, which makes it even more tragic that King Louis desires to take her life. She does not have the traditional mermaid appearance with a fully human upper half, but she is still beautiful. Scales cover her entire body, and her arms end in fins instead of hands, giving her an mystical otherworldly feel. When her backstory is revealed later in the film, her connection to Marie-Josephe becomes even stronger as well as Marie's resolve to return her to her family after having experienced what it was like to to grow up without one.

I strongly recommend this movie to all lovers of mermaids or fairy tales. It is a original story that incorporates everything that makes fantasy movies memorable memorable in the timeless setting of Versailles. Due to its slow release, it doesn't feel like a modern princess movie, and I think that's a good thing. It takes cinema back to a time of peak nostalgia and proves that Hollywood is still capable of telling original stories despite their strong inclination not to. The King's Daughter is a timeless film for princesses of all ages that gives a new perspective on mermaids. Not all mermaid want to become human or fall in love with them. Some just want to go home and be with their families like anyone else.


PrincessContent said…
I’m so happy to hear that you like the movie!
I hope that I will have the chance to see it too someday! <3

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