DIR/WRI: Neil Jordan • PRO: Ben Browning, James Flynn, Neil Jordan • DOP: Christopher Doyle • ED: Tony Lawson • DES: Anna Rackard • CAST: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Stephen Rea, Dervla Kirwan, Alison Barry, Tony Curran
A beautiful, possibly preternatural young woman offers a world-weary trawler-man a new lease of life in Neil Jordan’s whimsical new feature. Working from an original screenplay – his first in well over a decade – Ondine sees the director return to themes of fantasy, myth and the power of storytelling that made early works such as The Company of Wolves and The Miracle so memorable.
The premise is a model of simplicity: has Syracuse (Colin Farrell), a West Cork fisherman on his uppers, uncovered a mermaid (Alicja Bachleda), in his fishing nets or merely a girl named Ondine who is too scared to tell the truth? Whatever the explanation, her ethereal singing seems to produce bountiful hauls of fish, enough to make Syracuse wonder if his luck is about to change.
And not a moment too soon. A recovering alcoholic, Syracuse has long been dismissed by the townsfolk as a hopeless case. The divorced father of Annie (Alison Barry), a very sick little girl who lives with her drunken mother (Dervla Kirwan) and feckless Scottish partner, his sole confidant and surrogate AA sponsor is the parish priest, played by Jordan regular Stephen Rae with his customary wit and subtlety.
Upon learning of her oceanic provenance, Annie begins to fashion a myth around Ondine, likening her to a Selkie, a sea creature in Celtic folklore capable of bestowing luck on beleaguered mortals. Who is Syracuse to disabuse her of this fanciful notion?
The film is at its strongest when Jordan foregrounds the mystical elements of his slight, yet endearing tale; the real-world tensions over Ondine’s true identity are less interesting; the contrived climax, engineered to place order upon an ambiguous narrative, is disappointingly rational.
There’s no escaping the feeling that Ondine is a minor work from Jordan, but it’s a pleasurable, mellow experience, strikingly shot by the justly feted Christopher Doyle with a nicely judged central performance from Farrell (whose Whest Kark accent is at times occasional). Best to leave one’s cynicism at the door.
David O Mahony
Ondine is available on DVD from 16th August
Extra DVD Features include: ‘Making of Ondine: Behind the Scenes’ featurette
- Format: Anamorphic, Colour, PAL, Widescreen
- Language English
- Region: Region 2
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 – 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Classification: 12
- Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
- Run Time: 100 minutes