Ondine Review: Swept Away
In all honesty, I wasn’t too happy when my editor sent me off to watch Ondine. Personally I find it hard to see anything appealing about Colin Farrell – apart from his roguish good looks of course (I’m only human).
But after watching his latest effort, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I’ve completely changed my mind – I now love him.
Ondine sees Farrell play luckless fisherman Syracuse, whose life is turned upside down when he catches a woman called Ondine in his net. Syracuse is immediately entranced by her breathtaking beauty and mysterious nature, and decides to put her up in his mother’s cottage by the water.
The two become close when he discovers Ondine’s voice draws fish to his nets, but it’s his young sickly daughter Annie who’s really under her spell. She’s convinced that the strange woman is a selkie – a seal that can turn into a human. As the three grow close, Ondine’s dangerous secrets are revealed.
The plot is part fairytale-part tragedy and writer/director Neil Jordan allows a historical Irish melancholy to permeate the story and scenery. He steers clear of predictability and manages to keep a steady pace, letting the atmosphere of the cold Irish coast wash over you. The mix of modern life and elements of folklore lends the film a dreamlike quality, particularly surrounding Ondine herself.
Syracuse is troubled and constantly struggling but Farrell never plays him as too downtrodden. His gruff exterior is effortlessly balanced with gentle comedy and emotion, making him a pleasure to watch. Neil Jordan regular, Stephen Rea, puts in an amusing performance as the town priest who serves as Syracuse’s confidant and AA sponsor. Newcomer Alison Barry plays Annie with a knowing maturity beyond her years yet still manages to keep her character’s childlike need for fantasy.
The most interesting performance came from Alicja Bachleda as the watery woman of the title. I was pleased to see that her character’s mysterious nature didn’t prevent her from connecting with Annie and that their relationship echoed the sweet innocence of a child playing with an imaginary friend. With her bewitching looks, I’m sure it won’t be long before big Hollywood productions start knocking at her door.
Ondine’s a little off the beaten path in terms of what’s around at the moment, but this Irish fairytale isn’t something that should be dismissed in favour of blockbusters. I’ve eaten my words Colin Farrell, now keep up the good work.