I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing neatly blends film and video and comedy with serious undertones.
Plot centers on a klutzy and innocent temporary secretary (Sheila McCarthy) who is jobbed in at an art gallery run by an older femme, whom it is established quickly on takes a flagged fancy to her without the secretary cottoning on.
Living alone in cramped quarters, the secretary lives a fantasy life via deliberately grainy black-&-white scenes in which she flies through the air, walks on water and actually hears mermaids singing. Those sequences are soaringly portrayed with accompanying classical music [from Delibes’ Lakme]. In other off-times, she observes daily life by taking photographs.
The secretary later discovers what appears to be the owner’s own thrill-making canvases. Taking one of them, cleverly just a blaze of framed white light, the secretary hangs it in the gallery; it’s heralded by the press, and the gallery owner attains fame. But the secretary is dejected because of the growing love affair between the two other women and rejection of her photos.
McCarthy, a waif-faced Canadian stage thesp in her first lead film role, gives a dynamic, strongly believable and constantly assured performance. She is ably assisted by Paule Baillargeon (the gallery owner).