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I've Heard the Mermaids Singing

DVD cover
Directed by Patricia Rozema
Produced by Patricia Rozema
Don Haig
Alexandra Raffe
Written by Patricia Rozema
Starring Sheila McCarthy
Paule Baillargeon
Ann-Marie MacDonald
Richard Monette
John Evans
Brenda Kamino
Music by Mark Korven
Cinematography Douglas Koch
Editing by Patricia Rozema
Distributed by Buena Vista Home Video
Miramax Films
Release date(s) 11 September 1987
Running time 81 mins
Country  Canada
Language English language

I've Heard the Mermaids Singing is a 1987 theatrical-release feature film, directed by Patricia Rozema.

The film stars Sheila McCarthy as Polly, a worker for a temporary secretarial agency. Polly serves as the narrator for the film, and there are frequent sequences portraying her whimsical fantasies. Polly lives alone, seems to have no friends and enjoys solitary bicycle rides to undertake her hobby of photography. Despite being somewhat clumsy, uneducated, socially awkward and inclined to take other's statements literally, all of which has led to scarce employment opportunities, Polly is placed as a secretary in a private art gallery owned by Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon).

Ann-Marie MacDonald plays Mary, who is Gabrielle's former young lover, and also a painter. Mary returns after an absence, and she and Gabrielle rekindle their former relationship despite Gabrielle's misgivings that she is too old and Mary too young. Polly, who's fallen a little bit in love with Gabrielle, is inspired to submit some of her own photographs anonymously to the gallery. She is crushed when Gabrielle dismisses her photos out of hand and calls them "simple minded". Polly temporarily quits the gallery, and goes into a depression. She returns to the gallery, and revives a little when Mary notices one of her photos.

All the while, Mary and Gabrielle have been perpetrating a fraud. Gabrielle has been passing off Mary's work as her own. When Polly finds out, she becomes livid and tosses a cup of tea at Gabrielle. Believing she has done something unforgivable, Polly retreats to her flat in anguish.

Mary and Gabrielle later visit Polly at her flat, and realize that the discarded photographs were by Polly. As the film ends, Gabrielle and Polly look at more of Polly's photographs and in a short fantasy sequence the three are transported together to an idyllic wooded glen, a metaphor for the beautiful world that supposedly plain and unnoticed people like Polly inhabit.


The title is taken from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot.

Further reading

  • M. Alemany-Galway. A Postmodern Cinema: The Voice of the Other in Canadian Film (2002). Scarecrow Press.
  • B. Austin-Smith. "Gender is irrelevant":" I've heard the mermaids singing" as women's cinema. Cross Cultures (2002). Rodopi.

External links



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