Ireland's coast with its cloudy allure and spectacular beauty provides a considerable level of mystic in Colin Farrell's latest film. Ondine tells the story of fisherman Syracuse (Farrell) after he catches a woman in his nets. She miraculously chokes and stammers back to consciousness to both her and his surprise. Her entrance into his life sets off a series of events altering their lives in unimaginable ways.
Syracuse's daughter, Annie, is convinced the woman (Ondine) is a Silkie, a mythical creature from the sea. Her enduring belief in the fantasy begins to affect both Syracuse and Ondine. The two begin a romance that adds to the dreamlike feeling of the story, until reality literally crashes in on them. It doesn't seem clear if everyone will live happily ever after or not.
Writer/Director Neil Jordan did an excellent job scouting the location for the film. From the opening scenes of the film the Irish landscape took on a character all its own. The green hills combined with the haunting look of the sea combine to create a feeling of enchantment.
References to various well-known fairytales were not subtle throughout the script. Mermaids, Snow White, and Alice and Wonderland were all mentioned to make sure the audience understands the fictitious premise of the film. Even the villain enters like a bogeyman with ominous music playing when we first see him.
I'm not convinced we need another fairytale-meets-real-life movie. Especially one that follows the formula of a woman being put in danger because of a man and then said woman is saved by a man. This type of plot line puts the title character into a passive role that depends on the actions of the male characters. Ondine continues to perpetuate the illusion that if a woman finds the right man everything will work out for the best.
Adding to the damsel in distress scenario, Ondine portrays a sexualized innocence. This is made clear in one scene when she is frightened while steering the boat. She hunkers down in a ball and reaches a bare leg for the steering wheel. We see Syracuse watching her from a camera angle aimed through her legs in an attempt to be sensual, but it left me feeling uncomfortable. Her fear was apparent, which doesn't seem like a great time to emphasize her sexual appeal.
A truly bright spot in the film is Annie. She suffers from kidney failure and is sometimes relegated to a wheelchair. Despite these setbacks, her spirit is full and strong making her the character to admire. She exhibits independence and curiosity that is often stifled in young girls. It is her tenacity that kept me interested in the progression of the film. Alison Barry, the young actress who played Annie, did an amazing job, especially considering this was her first film.
Although I'm not overly enthusiastic about the premise of the film, I do think it was well made. The setting and some of the performances keep Ondine from drowning. However, I recommend waiting for the DVD and watching the film when you are in the mood for fantasy.
Ondine recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be out in limited release June 4th.