After communicating with Julie Roussel (Catherine Deneuve) through a personal ad, tobacco plantation owner Louis Mahé (Jean-Paul Belmondo) decides to bring her to his home on the island of Réunion so they can be married. When she arrives, Louis is surprised to find Julie looks nothing like the picture she sent. She explains that she sent her sister’s picture to him so she would know if he really loved her. Louis hasn’t been entirely honest, either. He only told Julie he worked at a cigarette factory, not that he owned a tobacco plantation.
Louis and Julie are married right away and Louis couldn’t be happier with his new wife. He wastes no time giving her access to things like his bank account. Things suddenly get more complicated when Louis gets a letter from Julie’s sister asking where Julie is. She hasn’t heard from Julie in a long time, which is very unusual for Julie. Louis calls Julie and tells her to write her sister immediately, but by the time Louis comes home that night, Julie is gone and so is most of his money.
Not long after Julie vanishes, Julie’s sister comes to Réunion looking for her. After meeting Louis, they realize the woman Louis married wasn’t the woman he had been writing to and they talk to a private investigator about finding the impostor. While the investigator gets to work, Louis heads to Nice for a trip, but winds up hospitalized for exhaustion. While recovering, he sees a commercial for a nightclub on TV and spots Julie dancing in it. He finds out where she lives and goes to her apartment, planning to kill her. But when the time comes, Julie tells him she doesn’t care if she lives or dies.
Julie comes clean about who she is and where she came from. Her real name is Marion Vergano and she had spent years going in and out of reform schools. She had fallen in love with a gangster named Richard and while they were on the same boat as the real Julie, they threw her overboard when they learned she suspected she was about to marry a rich man. Richard sent Marion ahead to pose as Julie so she could rob Louis. Marion swears that she really loves Louis but was forced into taking the money and Louis forgives her.
Marion and Louis hit the road and spend their days basking in each other’s company. They get a house together, but when the investigator Louis hired figures out what Marion had done to the real Julie, he comes to arrest her. Desperate to protect Marion, Louis shoots the investigator and buries him in the cellar, forcing Marion and Louis to live on the run, straining their relationship.
Mississippi Mermaid definitely isn’t the finest movie I’ve seen by Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Belmondo, or director Francois Truffaut, but it is still a pretty engrossing movie. The story held my attention through most of the movie, although I was starting to get a little bit tired of it near the end. I really liked the first part of the movie leading up to Julie/Marion leaving Louis and taking his money and I started off liking the stuff about Louis finding Marion and the two of them trying to carry on their relationship afterward, but that part of the movie just went on for a little too long. Deneuve and Belmondo were both great in it, though, and the chemistry between them was enough to make me want to keep watching even if I did lose interest in the story.