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I don’t know whether it’s the stress, depression, or fear of all the things that are going to be happening over the next few weeks, but I find myself with very little to say for myself this week. So instead of trying to think of some opinion, or insight, or experience to share with you, I’m going to tell you about the film I watched last night.

I think I’ve actually had the DVD for years, since someone gave it to me, but never watched it. It was a nice film for Christmas though. Much more so than the Hobbit, which I saw at the cinema the day it came out.


Director: Neil Jordan

Genre: It describes itself on the box as a romantic drama, I’d have said it was more of a family film, and reckon that if they’d marketed it as such more people might have seen it.

Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins

Rating: 12A

The film opens with one of the main characters, Syracuse, or Circus to his friends, out on his fishing boat. The film is a bit slow to get going although in the mean time there is a lot of gorgeous Irish scenery to look at.

While out on this fishing trip, Syracuse, played by Colin Farrell, pulls his nets from the water to discover that he’s caught a woman rather than a haul of fish. After he revives her the film continues with its slow burn as both the characters and the actors seem to be confused as to what they are both doing together on the boat.

The woman tells Syracuse that her name is Ondine, and after establishing that she, ‘isn’t one of those asylum seekers’, he takes her home and buys her a dress, so that she’ll have something dry to wear, but no underwear. A detail that furthers the plot by providing a tenuous excuse for a later shopping trip with Syracuse’s daughter, but mainly serves to provide five minutes worth of scenes of Alicja Bachleda, who plays Ondine, wearing a flimsy, skin-tight dress and nothing else,  and another where she tries on underwear in a shop.

It’s not hard to see how Bachleda and Farrell ended up with a baby as a memento of this shoot.

Syracuse then leaves the mysterious Ondine, who he suspects to be some kind of mystical sea dweller, in his home as he goes to pick up his daughter Annie from his alcoholic ex-wife (played by Dervla Kirwan). He has to take Annie to the hospital where she is receiving treatment while awaiting a kidney transplant, but they are late and the doctor isn’t there.

Syracuse then pays a visit to his priest (Stephen Rea) to confess his sins, and because he feels that he must tell someone about the woman he pulled out of the water. Here we learn that Syracuse is a former alcoholic, and that he divorced Annie’s mother to get sober and give her a stable role model.

For me, Alison Barry’s performance as Annie steals the film from its adult stars. It is with her appearance that the film starts to get going and show its heart. She decides that Ondine is a Selkie, a mystical Scottish sea creature who has come to save her from her miserable life of hospital visits, teasing from the other children in the village, and worrying about her mother and stepfather’s drinking.

Annie’s extensive research about Selkies reveals that they live in the sea as seals, but that they may shed their seal coats and walk on land as women. Selkies cannot return to the sea without their seal coats, and so long as their seal coats are not found, and their Selkie husband does not come to reclaim they will stay on land for seven years. Annie dearly wishes for Ondine to stay, so when she find something that startles her in the water she helps her to bury it where it won’t be found.

Syracuse also wishes for Ondine to stay, she brings him luck, and he is falling in love with her. But if the three of them are to have a chance of a life together Annie and Syracuse must first learn whether the Selkie is myth or reality.

The ending of the movie comes as no great surprise, as this is no groundbreaking film, but it makes for a satisfying conclusion.

Ondine is a nice little film that makes for pleasantly warm viewing. The main characters are all likable and well acted, and the cast has a nice onscreen chemistry. The scenes between Ondine and Annie and were particularly sweet, as we see that the sea lady falls for the daughter as least as much as she does for the father.

The film was marketed as a fairy tale for adults, but I think that children would find it easier to ignore the obvious questions that arise for any adult watching. It has a 12A rating due to some swearing and violence. The swearing wasn’t particularly necessary for the piece and the scenes with violence could have been shot in a more child friendly way; I think that the film would have been the better for it. It would have worked better as a nice, family orientated film. Nevertheless I enjoyed it, and would say that it’s worth watching if you find yourself on a lazy Sunday with nothing better to do.

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