Neil Jordan’s Carnivalesque gets straight to the point: 14-year-old Andy goes to the carnival with his parents. They haven’t really been getting along, things can be stressful but everything is about average in their lives—they don’t seem to be particularly special and at this point, neither does Andy. In the Hall of Mirrors, though, something strange happens—the mirrors seem to be portals of sorts, and Andy is sucked in through them, and trapped. No one knows he’s missing, because a doppelgänger of him walks away from the mirror, joins his parents, and goes off home, leaving Andy behind in this strange new world.
Andy remains stuck inside the mirror until one of the carnival’s aerialists, Mona, somehow pulls him out, names him Dany, and fairly seamlessly absorbs him into her carny family. Mona looks like a teenager, but of course in the carnival, nothing is quite what it seems, and it isn’t long before Andy starts to work this out, as he realises that the rope he has been given to hold Mona safe is instead tethering her to the ground while she flies across the trapeze. Andy learns more about the origins of the carnival, about the strange “mildew” that grows on the rusty metal of the equipment and how it has a special purpose. Mona and the other carnies are ancient, magical beings, the last of a dying race who still have one terrible enemy to contend with. Andy, it seems, is much more than an average boy trapped in a mirror—he may be more special than he knows. While the changeling Andy isn’t quite right, the “real” Andy (who is now Dany) does not remain the same ordinary boy either. For all his star-struck wonder at the marvels of the carnival, it becomes evident to the carnies and to him that his being at the carnival was nothing random.