‘The King’s Daughter’ goes beyond typical fantasies and effectively depicts a moral dilemma
There’s a really good reason why “The King’s Daughter” feels like a royal film.
The fairytale about the real-life King Louis XIV was actually filmed at the place the French monarch called home: the Palace of Versailles.
And the movie takes that majestic setting and matches it with a story that’s equally dramatic.
There are plot spoilers ahead.
Based on the novel “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda McIntyre, “The King’s Daughter” begins with the premise that King Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan) wants to live forever. Not just for himself, but for the good of France.
Meanwhile, the king’s illegitimate daughter Marie Josephe (Kaya Scodelario) is hidden away in a convent, where she gets into trouble as a free spirit who’d rather be swimming than praying. The nuns can’t keep her out of the ocean, and that body of water plays a crucial part in “The King’s Daughter.”
King Louis XIV sends a ship commanded by Captain Yves (Benjamin Walker) to capture a mermaid (played by Bingbing Fan). The monarch wants the mermaid because Dr. Labarthe (Pablo Schreiber), the king’s physician, believes that if the mermaid is sacrificed during an eclipse, the transplant of her heart will enable the king to live forever.
Pere La Chaise, the priest advising the king and his best friend, opposes the senseless killing of the mermaid and tries unsuccessfully to talk the king out of his plan.
The mermaid is captured, and the king decides to bring the daughter no one knows about to Versailles and makes her his new composer. Eventually Marie Josephe meets the mermaid and Captain Yves, and the plot goes swimmingly from there as Marie Josephe discovers she’s the king’s daughter.
The movie, now in theaters, doesn’t seem to have been promoted heavily, and many readers may be unaware of it. But it’s an outstanding film, and the biggest credit goes to director Sean McNamara, who managed to blend drama and comedy in an intelligent, compelling manner.
Praise also must go to the visual effects team for making the mermaid magical and mysterious.
The acting is great as well. Ms. Fan makes the mermaid intriguing with her facial expressions.
Ms. Scodelario makes the king’s daughter a true individual in a royal court of boring conformity.
And to no one’s surprise, Mr. Brosnan excels as King Louis XIV, showing the monarch’s struggles with morality. Will he be a villain or a hero? That’s the test before him, and “The King’s Daughter” succeeds because of its approach to that test.
Mr. Hurt, who has spent a career of making his acting look effortless, easily slips into the role of the priest. The longtime star has a knack for doing a lot with a simple look in his eyes, a change in his face and a few words of dialogue, and it plays well here. Simple and effective.
As Capt. Yves, Mr. Walker plays a free spirit forced to capture a mermaid, and it’s inevitable he and Marie Josephe will get together. There’s great chemistry between the two actors.
“The King’s Daughter” is a compelling fairytale with a moral dilemma, and it poses the question of whether this powerful monarch can become a better person. What’s more, from the sweeping music to the real-life setting of Versailles, the movie has an epic feeling that was once common in movies. Hopefully it will inspire a return to that trend.
By the way, listen carefully to the narrator’s voice. Do you recognize her? It’s none other than Julie Andrews.