A Review: Ondine
By Eva Medoff, June 14th, 2010
Fairy tales aren’t just for children. Or at least, that’s what the director Neil Jordan wants us to believe with his new film, Ondine. Starring the brilliant Colin Farrell and his real-life love Alicja Bachleda, the Irish film tells the story of a down-on-his-luck fisherman (Farrell) who pulls a woman from the water in his net. She might be an almost-victim of drowning, or she might be a selkie: the Irish version of a mermaid, who takes the form of a seal underwater and a beautiful woman on land. Amidst a backdrop of ocean, sky and land so similar in color it’s hard to tell the difference, not only does this possibility seem plausible, but likely.
The water woman (Bachleda) calls herself Ondine. She’s mysterious and frightfully beautiful. She spends the majority of the film wandering about in an oversized shirt dress, wellies and a trench coat, looking like she just walked off a Burberry runway. Ondine, suspiciously, doesn’t want anyone to see her, so the fisherman, Syracuse, lets her stay at his mother’s abandoned cottage. Jordan implants another character meant to pull our heartstrings in Syracuse’s daughter Annie (Alison Barry), who not only suffers from kidney failure, but also living with her alcoholic mother and step father. Annie believes whole-heartedly that Ondine is a selkie. She’s one of those child-characters who completely implausibly acts like an adult and has the vocabulary of a 35 year old. Regardless, Annie certainly needs a miracle, and Ondine seems like just the person who can make that open.
Despite some far-fetched details, the eery blue-grey sheen of the film, the grassy knolls and bubbling brooks are so magical it wouldn’t seem strange if a leprechaun appeared. The film walks a fine, almost indistinguishable line between reality and fantasy. After a violent action movie sequence is randomly tacked on at the end, we arrive at the ultimate truth—which we won’t give away. Suffice it to say, regardless of the details, Ondine still manages to pull off a fairy tale ending.