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Ondine (2009) ***

June 5, 2010


Written by: Neil Jordan
Produced by: Ben Browning, James Flynn and Neil Jordan
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sensuality and brief strong language
111 min.
U.S. Release Date: June 4, 2010 (limited)


After seeing Conor McPherson’s “The Eclipse” back in March, Ireland became a blip on my radar as a place to look for some very solid films.  After a viewing of Neil Jordan’s “Ondine”, I definitely became a believer in Irish films.  Not only do they showcase excellent production and storytelling, but also they feature some unbelievable locations.  Filled with shots of picturesque Irish landscapes, “Ondine” tells the story of a fisherman who pulls up his nets one day only to find a live woman in it.  Is this Irish film worth a watch, or will you want to pull this one off the line and throw it back in the water?


A lone Irish fisherman, known only as Syracuse (Colin Farrell), casts his fishing nets out into the sea.  He seems to expect little action when he later hoists the nets back up to the surface.  In this catch, in addition to fish, a living woman sits suspended over the water in one of his nets.  Both of them shaken up, Syracuse begins taking care of the woman who calls herself Ondine (Alicja Bachleda).  The next day, Syracuse goes out to sea to fish once more and Ondine comes along.  She sits at the front of the boat and sings in another language as the nets are cast.  As the mysterious woman sings, the nets fill with valuable catch, and she seems less than surprised.  As the days go by and Syracuse catches more fish, the two spend more time with each other and both seem increasingly infatuated with each other.

At this point, it’s clear that there is something special about Ondine.  Syracuse’s daughter Annie (the amazing Alison Barry), who lives with his ex-wife, is taken with Ondine, as well as the local townspeople.  All the attention draws in some darker forces in town, and Syracuse and Ondine are forced to confront them.  So, the motivating question begs an answer, is Ondine really the fairy tale she seems to be?

Within the first few frames the film, I was completely captivated by the whole cinematic experience of “Ondine”.  The setting, the camera work, the music, and the acting brought together the complete package.  Everything came together like a complex sauce reduction where all the ingredients complemented each other perfectly.

The film is set in a beautifully gloomy fishing town in Ireland.  Little drab shops and homes butted up against the sea with mountains off in the distance serve as the setting for this subtle modern day fairy tale.  This is a big reason why Irish films differentiate themselves from films of other countries, because of the way the landscape is showcased.

The alternative score by Kjartan Sveinsson and the music donated by Sigur Ros is fantastic in this movie.  Again, it’s difficult to pinpoint how exactly all the components of this film work so well individually without describing how they work together.  The music brings a wonderful and mystical quality to the film that adds to the fairy tale nature of the story.

Colin Farrell is, no doubt, a hit-or-miss actor, mostly because of his career choices.  However this film, among a few others, proves to me that he’s great.  His performance his subtle, but he carries the film at the same time.  The very pleasant surprise was the mature performance of the young Alison Barry as Syracuse’s witty daughter Annie.

Overall, if you have a theater showing this film nearby, you must go.  If not, put it on your Netflix queue today.  While you’re at it, do the same for “The Eclipse”.  “Ondine” is what “Lady in the Water” should have been; it’s subtle and unassuming while enthralling you at the same time.  If you’re a Colin Farrell fan, definitely double feature “Ondine” with the 2008 film “In Bruges”.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Paula permalink
    November 5, 2010 3:43 pm

    What a lovely gem this movie is! Beautifully told and great acting; this is a movie that stays with you.

    • Victor permalink
      May 23, 2011 8:12 pm

      Stupid film… It’s not even close to The New World.

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