Ondine Film Review

Release Date (UK) – 5 March 2010
Certificate (UK) – 12A
Country – Ireland
Director – Neil Jordan
Runtime – 111 mins
Starring – Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Stephen Rea

This romantic film sees Colin Farrell’s fisherman character fall for a mysterious young woman played by Alicja Bachleda. In a case of fiction mirroring real life, their off-screen relationship started on the films set, and they have just had their first child together

The title for the film, Ondine, comes  from the French word ‘Onde’ meaning ‘wave’ and the name Ondine refers to a mythical mermaid-like creature originating from the sea. Irish fisherman Syracuse (Farrell) literally pulls a half drowned young woman (Bachleda) out of the sea in his fishing net. Pleading amnesia, she tells Syracuse he can call her Ondine and he lets her stay in the house belonging to his recently departed mother. A recovering alcoholic, Syracuse’s has a young daughter Annie (Alison Barry) who needs regular dialysis and Ondine’s arrival brings new hopes for them both. Annie thinks that Ondine is a Selkie – (a fairytale creature) who can only stay on land for seven years. Ondine plays along with this, as it is easier to explain than the truth. However, the facts eventually come out in what is a the films dramatic and captivating  climax.

What sets Ondine apart from similar romantic films is the beautifully Irish scenery. It is set in the real village of  Castletownbere, where director and writer Neil Jordan lives himself. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle manages to capture stunningly beautiful imagery on film. One particular shot of Ondine’s head, surfacing from the sea, is an image that stayed with me a long time after viewing, as Doyle softly captures Alicia’s face in a shot which conveys almost mythical beauty.

Farrell is perfectly cast considering his background, – in fact one of his earliest TV appearances was in Falling for a Dancer, also set in the same village. Sympathetic and kind, Syracuse doesn’t question Ondine and is lovingly devoted to his daughter.  Not so well known to the big screen, Bachleda may be recognised by some viewer’s from last years Sundance favourite; Mexican immigration movie Trade but her relatively unknown face really adds to the intrigue and the suggestion that she is a mythical creature. Child performances can either stand out or ruin a film, and young Barry is a great example of an untrained child with great skill. She portrays Annie as a feisty youngster, resilient about her disability but also secretly lonely, and is clearly ecstatic to find a friend in Ondine.

Ondine weaves realism and fantasy elements together seamlessly and doesn’t pander to extremes of either. There are some great comic moments from Jordan regular Stephen Rea, who plays the village priest. Syracuse treats confession as if it was an AA meeting and this leads to some hilarious moments between the two, especially when Syracuse tells him how he came across Ondine in his net.

Unfortunately with Farrell the only star, the film has not had a great deal of publicity even though it is out today. However this is definitely the best pick of the films released this week and I heartily recommend it.

Ondine Film Trailer

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