“If it depends on me, you can stay forever.”_ Syracuse (Colin Ferrell)
“Ondine” is in many ways a modern day retelling of an old folklore about a lonely out of his luck Irish fisherman who one day catches a beautiful woman who claims to be a selkie, a type of seal much like a mermaid and upon discovery brings the man good luck. Neil Jordan blends realism and the harsh cruelty of real life with a hint of magical fantasy. Surprisingly, the mix works and by the end of the film you’ll be touched by the simplicity and subtlety of this honest tale.
“Ondine” is a heartwarming film for the entire family, one that is both suitable for kids and grownups despite the brief scenes of nudity. In many ways the film reminded me a lot of “I Capture the Castle” for its pure enchanted realistic approach in an age when good family films are a rarity. However, “Ondine” has a much darker tone and as with most fairy tales, the darker the tone the more desperate the need for hopeful change. This also makes Colin Farrell’s brief humorous confessions to the local priest (Stephen Rea) all the more enjoyable.
Lately, I’ve been very impressed by Colin Farrell’s choice of movies. The once rising star often associated with brainless blockbusters has somehow shifted to mature independent films. I suspect his Golden Globe win for the excellent “In Bruges” and the general positive critical praise he received encouraged him to seek good scripts instead of big paychecks. Few actors are wise enough to pursue good cinema instead of money, and Ferrell proved that he’s capable of so much more than what has been offered to him.
In “Ondine” Ferrell delivers a true and deep performance as Syracuse, a fisherman nicknamed “Circus” for his foolish behavior back in his drinking days. The events of the story unfold with a sober Syracuse who quit drinking for the sake of his sick daughter. “One of us had to be sober”, he says at one point referring to his ex-wife who remains an alcoholic. The lonely fisherman spends most of his time out at sea and returns with empty nets. Till one day a beautiful woman by the name of Ondine is caught in his net and everything changes for the better. Ondine is played by Alicja Bachleda an attractive talented actress with the voice of a Disney heroine.
Every once in a while Syracuse passes by his daughter, Annie (Alison Bary), who is in a wheelchair and tells her about his secret. The young daughter starts feeling “curious and curiouser” about the reality of the strange girl who came out of nowhere and soon suspects Ondine is a selkie. As time passes Syracuse finds it harder to figure out the truth about who exactly Ondine is, but when trouble arrives all is made clear-truth is stranger than fiction.
I have to give it to Neil Jordon for taking the risk of a potential silly story and turning it into a warm, touching and gripping story. The film was brilliantly photographed by Christopher Doyle (“Hero”); the captured beauty of Ireland greenery is a feast to the eye. Films like “Ondine” don’t come that often and like “Bridge to Terabithia” another sensitive little film with a big heart; they sadly get overlooked by the general public. I strongly recommend seeking out this warm tale – watch it on a cold and windy night.