Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ondine (2009)

It has been a downward slide for Neil Jordan lately. Despite all its good intentions, The Brave One (2007) was a poor (wo)man's Taxi Driver. And don't even get me started on The Good Thief (2002). Yet, I still kept my hopes up for Ondine (2009).

It all starts brilliantly - the lush scenery acoompanied by a  Brokeback Mountain-like music instantly pulled me in. Colin Farrell (well cast), who plays Syracuse the fisherman, pulls out a girl from the sea.  Farrell's real-life girlfriend Alicja Bachleda (also well cast),  plays the eponymous Ondine and she doesn't want to be seen by anybody. So Syracuse (Circus to the rest of the townfolk - he used to be an alcoholic) takes her to his dead mother's house in a secluded bay. All very oedipal. Meanwhile, Syracuse's chatty and smart little daughter Annie has kidney failure and while hooked up to a dialysis machine, he tells her a fairytale in which a fisherman fishes out ... you get the deal. She is convinced that the girl in the story is a "selkie" - a mythical aquatic creature that can shed its scales to become human. Is Ondine a real-life selkie, or is she actually harbouring a bigger secret?

Sadly, she is harbouring a bigger secret. And when that becomes glaringly obvious by some not so subtle clues, the film degenerates into the most cliche-ridden story this side of Armageddon. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you get my drift (what's with all the sea-related metaphors?). Once the whole selkie-thing is thrown out, the film picks up in a frantic pace that made me think that a reel  must have fallen out of the boat and is now enjoyed by the soon-to-be-shedding selkies in the Irish Sea. Look there is a car chase! Somebody dies! Oh, is that a reference to The Big Lebowski?

What happened to the beautiful scenery? How come Ondine is not singing Sigur Ros anymore? Does she have to be in her underwear most of the time and am I the only one who thinks she should be swimming naked? For artistic reasons, of course. How stupid is Syracuse? How come Stephen Rea is not more in it and did Neil Jordan give him the funny version of the script?

So many questions unanswered. But, there were some answers to other questions. No, Neil Jordan will never make another film like The Company of the Wolves (1984) or The Crying Game (1992). Yes, Colin Farrell is a very luck man. Yes, that funeral scene was lifted from The Big Lebowski and no, it wasn't meant to be funny.

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