Mental Health Channel Online Film Festival: The Mermaid By Sara Werner [2015 Jury Winner]


This is a bittersweet short about a young man that suffers from schizophrenia and the sister that cares for him.

The pair live together in a small apartment, and from how the sister describes their living situation, she has been her brother’s primary caregiver for quite some time. What stood out most to me in this film was their relationship dynamic and how real it was to witness as a viewer. Namely, the childlike innocence that their relationship embodies, especially when she and her brother ride their bikes to the beach. She knows her brother’s goldfish doesn’t belong in the ocean, but she is willing to appease him just to keep him calm. It seemed like for a second, when the two of them were making their way to the beach, that the siblings were transported back to a time when they were younger-when they believed in fictional characters and went on epic adventures. For her, it felt like she was in a different place. A place where she had no worries, and her life was normal enough to smile. A place where she could laugh and be free to enjoy her brother’s fellowship without complication. While this was true in some respects, for a second, it was also untrue. But isn’t that the realest part of life, the idea that once we become adults and shed our childhood wonders in favor of responsibility, it is hard to get back to a place where we can be truly carefree again? This is the conundrum the sister faces. As his sister, she wants to enjoy the moment with him, but as his caregiver, she has an obligation that prevents her from being irresponsible with her brother’s wellbeing.

Despite this, I really liked how well the sister understood the little nuances in her brother’s behavior. In particular, how she could figure out creative ways to counteract his negative behavioral traits. I know that this was not without a cost. As we can see in the film, she breaks down in frustration and exhaustion as a result of her constant battle to keep him under control. She is a very capable person, but you can see that she lacks the proper tools and support. Towards the end of the film, we see her love interest begin to accept her unusual situation and her brother’s mental illness. He wants to do everything he can to be helpful and supportive. When she finally tells him to call the police, this is the moment, I believe, she has reached the end of her rope. She is done trying to fight. She craves a normal life. She knows calling the police on her brother may be a deadly decision, and she wants to do it anyway.