Directed by: Neil Jordan Cast: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Alison Barry Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 11, 2010
PLOT: A fisherman (Farrell) pulls a woman (Bachleda) out of the water who is suspected to be a "selkie," which is the Scottish version on the mermaid.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Mature foreign-filmgoers who don't mind a little enchantment sprinkled in their cup of reality.
EXPECTATIONS: Especially with limited release films like this one, I rarely know what it is about until I go in. This is certainly the case with Ondine, which I only knew was a Neil Jordan film starring Colin Farrell.
Colin Farrell as Syracuse: The actor’s macho outer appearance is unrecognizable in the skin of the dirty and meek fisherman. We are invested in his curiosity as he tries to figure out the true origins of Ondine, and legitimately concerned about his investment in this mysterious character. Another role from Farrell that surprises its audience by presenting a shade of humanity one might think to be out of his range. Score: 6
Alicja Bachleda as Ondine: With her true identity hinted too much too early in the film, she still delicately transitions into reality. She gets, as Annie says, "curiouser and curiouser" whenever she does not speak, but instead maintain bits of silence. If that is her real voice, Bachleda has a nice set of pipes which one can see really would get Syracuse his fair share of crabs. Score: 5
Alison Barry as Annie: This bright kid asks a lot of questions, but her imagination blocks her from accepting actual truths. Anne is a likable investigator, and we can be thankful that the script doesn’t milk her wheelchair situation for any severe servings of cheese. Score: 5
TALKING: Going into the film, you may not know much about selkies. This will not be the case after Ondine is over. Also, this line may stick with you for a long time, simply because you'll never hear it again in a movie, ever: "Of course it's real. It's Sigur Ros!" Score: 6
SIGHTS: Director Neil Jordan takes some time with his grey toned cinematography to offer a few shots that capture his natural beautiful Irish landscape. The lack of flashy nature in these scenes can not be said about his other natural beauty, Bachleda, who is photographed more than once like if she were an underwear model. The mystery of whether she is a semi-mermaid or not is lost when she is presented as if her real “secret” is that she’s actually Victoria. Score: 6
SOUNDS: The score usually alternates between a solo fingerpicked acoustic guitar, or a repetitive motif by jazz guitarist Pat Matheny. Iceland’s greatest contribution to the world, Sigur Ros, plays a key role in the movie later in a way that is admittedly a bit goofy. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: The beginning capturing of Ondine in Syracuse's net is a captivating and random moment.
ENDING: The resolution to the selkie shenanigans is typical, but actually unexpected.
QUESTIONS: How did this fare in Europe, where selkies are possibly a more known topic?
REWATCHABILITY: Now that the mystery behind Ondine is out of the bag, there isn't a whole lot of replay value for this one.
Writer/director Neil Jordan attempts to get adults to accept miracles with a story reminiscent of the mermaid-out-of-water Tom Hanks classic, Splash. However, because this is Neil Jordan, he felt it necessary to turn the third act of his originally delicate into a bit of a thriller, a painfully wrong decision that takes the only hinted-at adult nature of this story into a typically written domain of “Now We Have To Run Away From The Bad Man.” Throughout the movie Ondine maintains a fair amount of uncertainty, and it does have us believing in the possibilities that one could probably only experience in their imagination. A plainly written and terribly acted character that I constantly wrote down in my notebook as “Scowl-Man” rips down the curtain of reality too far and the tangible magic of Ondine is misplaced for a fair amount of time.
Thankfully, Jordan is able to fish out his story from a sea of mediocrity, and end it with a note that has even the most mature minds believing in fairy tales again.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10