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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 18, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 25
Ondine will have you believing in fairytales
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Ondine will have you believing in fairytales

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Ondine Opening June 18

Fairytales can be unsettling. They can also be magical. Often they're both. Neil Jordan's new film Ondine is a modern-day telling of the water nymph myth, and it definitely falls into the latter category: It's quite magical, and more than a little unsettling.

Syracuse (Colin Farrell) is an Irish fisherman with a bad nickname, a sickly daughter named Annie (Alison Barry), an abusive, alcoholic ex-wife, and a drinking problem of his own that teeters on the edge of recovery every day.

For Syracuse, the fishing is marginal and life is a lonely grind until the day he pulls his nets in to find a beautiful woman who goes by the name Ondine (Alicja Bachleda). Annie believes Ondine is a selkie, a mythological shape-shifter who can become human by removing her seal coat. While Syracuse isn't sure what to think, he does fall madly in love with his catch, and when a man's in love, anything seems possible.

Farrell, as usual, is perfect as the downtrodden everyman - though a gorgeous downtrodden everyman - trying to stay sober and make a living. He'd also like to get the townsfolk to quit calling him Circus, a nickname he earned during his drunk years.

Farrell works the character expertly as Syracuse begins to allow himself to believe in all kinds of things. Maybe Ondine is a mermaid or a selkie. Maybe when she sings he catches more fish. Maybe she can cure Annie's kidney failure. Farrell is so good that as Syracuse begins to believe, so do we.

Bachleda earns high praise as the beautiful something-or-other seemingly coughed up by the sea. Her accent is familiar, yet you can't peg it. She is perfectly at home in the sea and on the land and she struggles against falling in love with the fisherman who may or may not be her salvation. I wish I could write more, but that would spoil things.

The cinematography by Christopher Doyle is lovely and captures the fairytale beauty of the Irish coast nicely. The images become part of the storytelling. Doyle also shot Paranoid Park (perhaps Gus Van Sant's most underrated film) and Rabbit Proof Fence along with a slew of flicks made in Hong Kong. This is great work by a photog who rarely gets much praise.

Ondine is pure movie magic. The story is excellent and keeps you guessing until the end. In typical Neil Jordan fashion, the last act takes a wild (and totally satisfying) turn. It doesn't matter how old you get, it's always fun to believe even if only for a couple of hours in a darkened theater.

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