By Kyle Wooldridge
We’ve all heard of Twilight right? Mega popular book series-turned movie series? Unless you lived under a rock for the last two decades, I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about it. Well, have you ever thought, “man Twilight is cool, but you know what would be cooler? If it was about a merman instead of a vampire!” If that’s the case, have I got good news for you! We Love You, Sally Carmichael! might be the movie for you!
Okay, that introduction paragraph is pretty misleading. Sadly, We Love You, Sally Carmichael! isn’t technically about a merman love story. This film is actually about a writer named Simon who has created a pseudonym, Sally Carmichael, so he can write a young adult novel about a girl falling in love with a merman without ruining his own reputation as a writer. So I didn’t technically lie when I said this film is Twilight with mermaids; that is certainly a key element to the plot! It’s just a better attention-getter than “oh, it’s a story about a writer who struggles with finding his own identity and maintaining artistic integrity in a commercial age.”
What I liked about this film was the way in which this film takes a close look at artistic integrity and the morality of selling out. In this movie, Simon has already decided to sell out before we are introduced to him, so what we see is him dealing with the consequences of this choice, such as feeling boxed in as a writer, being forced to do things he doesn’t want to do because of contracts, and poor relationships in his personal life. I think the film does a really good job handling this topic without being too serious. The overall tone of the film is definitely light and fun. It feels kind of like a quirky rom-com, even though the romance isn’t necessarily the primary focus of the film. The contrast between the light tone and the serious subtextual topics is really well handled, and is the strongest aspect of the film.
On top of the story about Simon dealing with the ramifications of his decision to write under the name Sally Carmichael, there was also a plot about Simon falling in love with a local bookstore/newspaper owner named Tess. While I really liked the main plot about Simon trying to balance being Sally with being himself, I think the romance sub-plot isn’t as strong. This part of the film feels very cliché and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The love story is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be, even including the classic scene in which the woman learns that the man has been keeping a big secret from her and feels like she’s been used, only to forgive him a few scenes later. It isn’t necessarily that the love story between Simon and Tess is bad, it is just bland. I felt like I had seen it a hundred times before, and I’ll likely see it one hundred more times before I die. That being said, this didn’t really bring down my opinion of the film as a whole too much since it is just one aspect of the film.
The performances in this film are solid all around. I think Christopher Gorham does a good job as Simon, delivering a convincing performance as this awkward, socially anxious hermit of a writer. I’m not 100% confident that he isn’t just like that in real life, but regardless, I found his character to be relatable and natural. However, I think the real star of the movie is Sebastian Roché as Hollywood superstar Perry Quinn. Quinn is a very funny character who constantly causes trouble for Simon, but in the most amusing ways possible. He is just goofy enough to entertain, but not so much that he isn’t a believable character; I had no trouble being convinced that he could be an eccentric Hollywood superstar. Aside from these two great performances, the rest of the cast is adequate. I don’t really remember being distracted by any of their performances, but as I write this review, no other actors really stand out to me. One thing that did bother me a bit was Simon’s brother, Brad. Brad isn’t necessarily played poorly; I just wasn’t sure what purpose his character plays in the plot of the film. He was barely even in it, and when he was, it felt like he is just there to remind us that Simon and Tess have a love story going on amongst all the other things happening. I think Brad could have been cut from the film without it impacting the plot almost at all.
One of the really cool things about the film is the transformation Simon goes through. At the beginning, Simon resents Sally Carmichael and the books he writes under that name. He even writes an article for Tess’s small local paper about how much he hates them and how Carmichael manipulates her readers. As the film goes on, he sees how his books have affected different people’s lives and he starts to have a change of heart. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that by the end of the film he loves the books or anything, but he is at least less ashamed of writing them. One of the powerful moments in the film is when Tess tells Simon about her daughter and how his books has helped her make friends. Tess says that her daughter Andie never talked to anybody and kept to herself, but that really broke her out of her shell by discussing the books with people in her class. While Simon doesn’t see these books as great pieces of literature, the film does hint at the fact that he is still able to make a positive impact on people’s lives with his work.
Overall, I thought this film was very endearing and fun to watch. It keeps the tone light and has many good jokes in it, but beneath the surface, there are some really interesting themes and allegories to real life issues. The way the film manages to balance a couple different themes while still maintaining this fun, light atmosphere is very impressive. The biggest sin this film commits is being a tiny bit cliché, but that isn’t too big of a drawback when watching this film. There certainly could have been bigger issues. If a heartfelt family story with a deeper meaning is what you look for in a movie, I would recommend giving We Love You, Sally Carmichael! a watch.