Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Under 250: Ondine

Neil Jordan is the only director that can effectively take what seems to be a neorealist film on the surface and spin it into a beautiful, magical fairy tale that makes you question your better judgments about reality while keeping you totally invested. Commercial fisherman Syracuse (Colin Farrell), often referred to as “Circus” in his Irish village due to his past as a drunk, finds a nearly drown young woman (Alicja Bachleda) in his fishing net who calls herself “Ondine,” French for “the girl from the water.” An amnesiac, she refuses to let him take her to the hospital, so he takes her to his mother’s abandoned home. Ondine quickly becomes an important part of Syracuse and his sick daughter Annie’s lives as wishes come true, magical things start happening, and the line between myth and reality become blurred, especially for Annie who is convinced that Ondine is a “selkie” or a woman from Irish legend who was once a seal, but comes on dry land for seven years and falls for a “landsman.” This is a dark fairy tale that despite its happier moments dips deep into human suffering. Jordan expertly makes you yearn for a return to a time when you could easily believe that magic still existed, making you believe in Ondine just like Annie does, as Syracuse himself allows his “adult” presumptions to fall away, only to be slapped back into reality. This “slap,” which comes near the end of the film, spoils the magic a little bit, but it’s hard to blame Jordan, as the disappointment mirrors Syracuse’s as well and keeps the film grounded. With stunning cinematography, luscious forbidding landscapes, and gut-wrenching acting from all involved, particularly Farrell, it’s another great Jordan film that has sadly has slipped under the radar.

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