The King's Daughter (2022)


The costumes in this movie looked so awful for the time period I didn’t bother seeing it for a long time, but as it turns out, minus the egregious modern hairstyles, makeup, and gowns, it’s actually a compelling and entertaining story.


Marie-Josephe (Kaya Scodelario) has spent her entire life in a nunnery, breaking the rules and drawn to the sea. She continues to swim and feel pulled to the ocean despite the Mother Superior’s best efforts to keep her inside the abbey walls. Much to the woman’s relief, Marie’s father, King Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan), sends for Marie to spend time at his court, at the bidding of his priest, Pere La Chaise (William Hurt). Marie arrives with no knowledge of being his daughter, but enjoys her new position as the court composer. The court’s scientist has hypothesized that the secret to immortality lies in the capture and murder of a mermaid. Captain Yves (Benjamin Walker) has returned from the sea with one such creature, which he intends to keep alive as long as the king demands. The eclipse under which the sacrifice must take place is a few weeks off, which gives him time enough to meet Marie, who stumbles into his secret cove one night, drawn there by the mermaid’s song. But with a shroud of secrecy around the king’s intentions, can Marie find out the truth for her water-friend before it’s too late?


The book that inspired this film is so different, I would be surprised if the author wasn’t offended… but the truth is, I liked the film’s take on the story. In the novel, Marie grows up at court and it’s her brother who is Pere, a blend of scientist and priest. Dividing the two into separate characters allows for tension between science and faith, with faith often taking the moral high ground and arguing for the preservation of the soul. Pere is probably my favorite character; as a priest, he argues that the mermaid has a soul, it’s morally wrong to murder her, and that the king condemns himself to hell if he takes part in anything so heinous. It’s so rare to see a positive depiction of someone of faith, it was delightful to see a priest for once being depicted as a loving, considerate person who argues for the good. The film didn’t come out for a long time, as it got shuffled around between studios, and it’s both hard and easy to see why. The script is good, even if it has some stereotypical tropes going on (a greedy man who wants to marry Marie, for example), but the real problem lies in the modern costumes.


This could have been a glorious film set in the late 1600s, with gorgeous costumes, wigs, and shoes to fit the stunning setting of Verisae. It’s the court of France! And while the carriages, gardens, exterior of the palace, and some of the men’s costumes are lovely, the women all walk around in Dior gowns. Strapless! They wear 2020 makeup! It’s on parallel with Reign, which did the same stupid thing, and it left me bemoaning that they didn’t do better. The film clearly had a decent budget, they could have used it to be a little less ‘modern’ and a little more ‘period accurate’! It pains me! And that’s a shame, because everything else about this movie I loved. The wit, the humor, the sad moments, the mermaid, the setting, and the romance between Marie and her captain, who looks super hot with long hair. It even has a terrific ending song. I liked it so much, I watched it twice in a week! So if you can stomach the awful costumes and pretend it’s not set in France, but some alternate reality, it’s worth a watch.

Sexual Content:
The king sleeps with various women of the court off-screen and confesses to it in the morning for absolution, but usually can't remember their names.

The mermaid is forcefully taken from the ocean and they plan to murder her and extract her heart. To save her, the heroine and her friends get into brawls. A man is shot and almost dies. A girl has her arm broken in a fall from the horse, but the mermaid uses her healing powers to repair it. A woman falls to her almost-death off a cliff. A bad man gets his foot caught in a rope and drowns (off-screen).

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