Out of Water Image

Out of Water

By Alan Ng | June 24, 2023

PALM SPRINGS SHORTFEST 2023 REVIEW! Even a mermaid needs respect in writer-director Madi Stine’s short film, Out of Water. It’s little Camille’s (Anabelle Murphy) birthday, and as a special present, Camille’s mother hired Sandy (Marlee Learner). Sandy is a professional mermaid, to bring magic to the party. Camille is stunned, and as Sandy tries to show her a few mermaid tricks, the child disappears.

Rushing to her next gig, Sandy finds Camille in the trunk of her car. Learning that Camille ducked off for the day to spend it with a real-life “mermaid.” As Sandy and Camille become fast friends, disaster strikes at Sandy’s next appearance at a local “dive” bar.

Out of Water is a sweet story of two lost souls connecting as friends. Camille is often lost-in-the-shuffle at home and would rather spend her day with a mermaid. Sandy finds joy in bringing her mermaid magic to complete strangers. Yet, this relationship is built on false pretenses, as Sandy is not a real mermaid. Or is she?

“Camille is often lost-in-the-shuffle at home and would rather spend her day with a mermaid.”

There are two things to mention regarding this dramatic short. The first is the attention to detail Madi Stine brings to the production. She puts in way more effort into the production design, makeup, and costumes than most other filmmakers would, and it pays off. Let me highlight Sandy’s mermaid makeup and how it comes on and off and fades as the character goes through her day.

Between gigs, she has to reapply the glitter tattoos, and by the end, it’s faded on her skin. Yes, I’m making a big deal out of this, but it gives the narrative a sense of time elapsing. The set design is just as spectacular. You’re at a children’s party for mere minutes. Sandy’s tchotchke-invaded car feels like it’s owned by a professional mermaid, and the mermaid bar feels like a mermaid bar, even if the budget can’t afford an actual one.

The other highlight of Out of Water is the relationship between Camille and Sandy. Leads Marlle Learner and Anabelle Murphy have great chemistry together. Both have to give very emotional performances, and the way they work off one another comes off as easy when we know it’s not. This is why the chemistry between actors is so important.

Out of Water is a story of finding acceptance. You don’t have to be a 10-year-old girl or a professional mermaid to relate to Madi Stine’s fantastical tale of friendship.

Out of Water screened at the 2023 Palm Springs ShortFest. For more information about Out of Water, visit Madi Stine’s official website.

Out of Water (2023)

Directed and Written: Madi Stine

Starring: Marlee Learner, Anabelle Murphy, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Out of Water Image

"…Marlle Learner and Anabelle Murphy have great chemistry..."

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