Review: Ondine ★★★★

Ondine (Ireland/USA, 111 min)
Written & directed by Neil Jordan
Starring: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Alison Barry, Stephen Rea.

I saw Ondine at TIFF last fall. The film opened in limited release on June 4th and is worth seeking out. Colin Farrell stars as Syracuse, an Irish fisherman who snags a rare catch in his net: a woman. The young woman is frightened and disoriented, so Syracuse brings her back to his home to rest. Once she has recuperated, the woman, Ondine (Alicja Bachleda), befriends Syracuse and his daughter Annie (Alison Barry). Ondine becomes a long-term guest in the household, especially when she turns out to be Syracuse's good luck charm on fishing trips. Whenever Ondine joins Syracuse on his boat, she keeps him company by singing; however, each time Ondine sings, Syracuse catches hoards of fish.
   Annie's interest in Ondine's power convinces her that Ondine is a selkie, a mermaid-like sea creature of Irish folklore. Ondine is thus very much a fairy tale, especially once Syracuse takes a romantic interest in Ondine. Like most fairy tales, Ondine takes a dark turn, and the sense of danger propels the film into a spectacular romantic thriller.
   The film plays with mythology and folklore quite successfully and Ondine has a beguiling quality unlike any other film. The landscape of the Irish coast is sumptuously rendered by cinematographer Christopher Doyle (Hero) and a beautiful score by Kjartan Sveinsson of Sigur Rós adds a lyrical quality to the film's mystique. Ondine's costuming frequently gives her a mermaid-esque appeal, and Bachleda's stunning profile grants the character a dual sense of innocence and urgency. Colin Farrell also gives one of his better performances as Syracuse. The scenes in which he plays a sensitive father to Annie are especially touching.
   The latest film from Irish writer/director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Breakfast on Pluto), Ondine is a dazzling feast of intrigue, splendor, and above all: magic.