19 June 2010

Ondine: A Love Story

**** (4 stars)
I had the privilege of seeing an advanced screening of Neil Jordan's new film "Ondine" Wednesday with my gal Friday, shine. Jordan makes movies that read like dreams, or at least my dreams, where reality and fantasy overlap like they do when we were children. He is the auteur of many of my favorite films ("The Crying Game", "Interview with the Vampire", "Michael Collins", and "Breakfast on Pluto"), as well as one of my favorite books ("Shade"- the better "The Lovely Bones").

His latest stars Colin Farrell (with a good West Irish accent) as a disheveled fisherman down on his luck. He's quit the drink but has never grown out of the role of alcoholic. The loner everyone in town knows and pity's but can't be bothered to help. While fishing on day he pulls in the catch of his life, a woman. Veteran cinematographer Christopher Doyle shoots their initial interactions like a fight sequence, which it invariably is. At times this becomes a distraction when the action/actor is out of focus yet the perimeter of the frame is crystal clear. What do they want you to see along the edges?

If Farrell's daughter (fresh faced ingenue Alison Barry) can be believed, the woman from the sea is a Selkie- half seal half human. I grew up listening to these same stories which may be why I feel a connection to this film that is greater than others. The Selkie who can shed her seal coat to walk on land amongst the humans. If she buries her coat she can stay for 7 years before having to return to sea. The legend of Oisin in Tir na Nogh, the land of youth. My father shared these and many more with me, so movies such as "Ondine", and "Into the West", and "The Secret of Roan Inish" (also about Selkies) worm their way into my heart and subconsciousness.

Farrell puts in a good turn as a man not unlike how we the public perceive him. He's been beaten down by life, but manages to scrape things together for the good of his daughter and himself. His daughter, precocious because she must be, spouts wisdom better suited to someone twice or three times her age. Ondine, mysterious and from the sea. Who is she? Where did she come from? Is this a fantasy?

The pacing is deliberately slow and methodical with bursts of action meant to disjoint the audience. When the ending is revealed, you don't know whether to applaud or throw your drink- you've become invested in the characters. Jordan has the power to suck you into his vortex and then spit you out when he's done. It's incredibly satisfying.

A must for fans of Neil Jordan, Colin Farrell (his "In Bruges" and"A Home at the End of the World" performances especially), Irish culture, folklore, and plan old good story telling.

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