Duyung, which literally translates to Mermaid, is a Malaysian fantasy comedy film set around a water village where a regular guy named Jimmy encounters a mermaid because of his pure-of-heart attitude and passion for keeping the environment clean. The mermaid is named Puteri (which means "Princess") and she is played by the very lovely Maya Karin. Jimmy and Puteri develop a friendship, which is threatened by people with no care for the environment and eventually want to capture Puteri for their own gain.
It's a rather small story that is limited in scope and humour (surprising to me, considering other films from this studio that managed a lot with similarly restricted resources) but has two things going for it. One is the water village setting, which is an actual thing and seems tailor-made for mermaid stories, and makes for a nice change from the ubiquitous beach.
The other gem of this simple film is Maya Karin, who made a career playing scary and/or exotic characters, and brings to Puteri an otherworldly edge. She rarely blinks, tilts her head like a bird, and her open smile is really creepy (I half expected her to start eating poor Jimmy) and when she speaks, it sounds like she's struggling with the words. Has there been a mermaid before who spits water in greeting? It's easy to believe that Puteri is a creature not of the mortal realm. This mermaid also does not gain legs at any point, which is also a nice differentiating touch.
There are a couple of underwater scenes that are beautiful for their being filmed in the tropical Malaysian ocean, though again limitations in scope, safety and time mean that the scenes are mostly in the shallows. Maya certainly gives her all, though.
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