Ondine


Ondine

Not only must Colin Farrell carry the film, he also has to carry Alison Barry without any help from Alicja Bachelda.

 

(2009) Romantic Fantasy (Magnolia) Colin Farrell, Stephen Rea, Alicja Bachelda, Tony Curran, Dervla Kirwan, Tom Archdeacon, Emil Hostina, Norma Sheahan, Alison Barry, Conor Power, Olwyn Hanley, Peter Gowen, Don Wycherley, Gertrude Montgomery, Reese O’Shea. Directed by Neil Jordan

 

The sea gives up its secrets begrudgingly, although off the Emerald coasts of Ireland there is a certain magic in those secrets. Where despair and disappointment may reign over the waves, hope can carry the day.

Syracuse (Farrell) – known as Circus to one and all in the village in which he lives – is a decidedly unsuccessful fisherman trying to eke out a living from the sea, all the while dealing with his daughter Annie’s (Barry) debilitating and serious kidney ailment (which confines her to a wheelchair), his wife Maura (Kirwan) who has taken up with another man, and his own alcoholism which he has been trying desperately to beat.

Out for another disappointing day of failure, Syracuse brings up in his nets a woman, who calls herself Ondine (Bachelda). What she was doing in the middle of the ocean she can’t or won’t say, and she begs Syracuse not to let any other souls in the village see her save himself. He is mystified but puts her up in his late mother’s cottage.

Annie, being a smart and inquisitive little girl, discovers Ondine’s existence and decides that she’s a selkie, a creature of Irish myth that is half woman, half seal. Ondine appears to have some magical properties going on – when she sings, fish almost leap into Syracuse’s net. At last he is beginning to make more than a living, helping pay for his daughter’s dialysis and treatment.

But there is a mysterious man (Hostina) searching for Ondine and when tragedy strikes, everything Syracuse knows or thinks he knows may well be put to the test.

Jordan is an Irish director with an impressive resume, including The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game, Mona Lisa, Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins and The Brave One entered on it. He has a penchant for the fantastic and exercises it here. He also has a good eye for the Irish countryside and utilizing frequent Wong Kar Wei cinematographer Christopher Doyle, he extracts all the misty magic of a small Irish fishing village.

Farrell tends to be at his best when he’s playing ordinary Joes who are flawed. Syracuse isn’t a heroic sort; he’s just trying to do right by his daughter and often doesn’t even manage that. He’s nowhere near as smart as his daughter and often defers to her judgment which is the kind of thing that makes me want to bang my head against the nearest brick wall.

Barry may well be a terrific juvenile actress but she’s handed a part here that lands her on my list of pet peeves – the overly precocious child who is smarter and more capable than the adults around her. This serves to make Annie annoying to the point that I’d have preferred long acrylic fingernails screeching over a chalkboard than listening to her talk. That’s not the fault of the actress but of the writer. A more realistic child would have improved the movie 1000 times.

The center of the film is the romance between Syracuse and Ondine. Bachelda, a Polish actress (by way of Mexico where she grew up) is certainly beautiful and has wonderful legs which she displays regularly. She also has, more crucially, actual chemistry with Farrell so their budding romance becomes believable and even encouraged by the viewer who wants to see the together – the watermark of any romantic film.

Some may compare this conceptually to Splash and there are certainly similarities, but whereas Madison in that film was always known to be a mermaid, Ondine remains an is-she-or-isn’t-she until the very final reel which is smart filmmaking. However, the plot takes an unnecessary left turn from gentle romantic fantasy into action thriller for the last twenty minutes or so before returning for the last couple of scenes to the romantic fantasy again. Quite frankly the romantic fantasy works better.

I liked the laidback, dreamy vibe of the movie and Farrell’s IFTA-winning performance (the Irish Film and Television Awards are kind of a cross between the Oscars and Emmy’s in Ireland), as well as Bachelda’s legs and chemistry with Farrell. Kirwan also won an IFTA for her role as Farrell’s estranged wife, battling alcohol issues of her own.

This flew under the radar during an American theatrical release in art houses in the spring of 2010 but is out there on the Showtime/The Movie Channel if you want to catch it on cable, or available for streaming generally everywhere. It makes for a nice romantic evening’s viewing, especially for those who carry an affection for Ireland and all things Irish.

WHY RENT THIS: Gorgeous cinematography and a nice melding of Irish folklore and modern rural Ireland. Fine performances from Farrell, Bachelda, Kirwan and Barry.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The ending is a bit disappointing. Annie is part of a long line of precocious and annoying movie kids.

FAMILY VALUES: There are some words you might not want your kids to hear, as well as a bit of sensuality and a scene or two of violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Farrell and Bachelda

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $1.6M on a $12M production budget; it failed to recoup its production costs during its theatrical run.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Arthur (2011)

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Four-Warned: June 2010


Jonah Hex

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief explanation

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE

1. JONAH HEX (1.1)
2. TOY STORY 3 (1.3)
3. KNIGHT AND DAY (1.6)
4. GROWN UPS (2.1)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)

1. WINTER’S BONE (1.0)
2. ONDINE (2.2)
3. COCO CHANEL & IGOR STRAVINSKY (2.4)
TIE. THE KILLER INSIDE ME (2.4)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JUNE 4, 2010

CROPSEY (Cinema Purgatorio) Genre: Documentary. A journalist delves into what had been an urban legend about a child murderer that turns out to be frighteningly close to the truth. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.9 Sounds fascinating, but definitely a New York story.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A record label fluky tries to get a rock star from England to a concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Aldous Snow was great in Forgetting Sarah Marshall but do I want to see a movie all about him?
KILLERS (Lionsgate) Genre: Action Comedy. A woman discovers that her new husband is actually a trained assassin. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Sort of like Mr. and Mrs. Smith without the Mrs. Smith.
MARMADUKE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Family Comedy. A Great Dane discovers that the world is what you make of it, even if you’re just too big. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 The trailer for this actually talked me out of wanting to see this.
ONDINE (Magnolia) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. An Irish fisherman picks up what he believes to be a mermaid in his nets. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A little Irish never hurt anybody.
SPLICE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A pair of gene splicers fuse the DNA of humans with animals with horrific results. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 The new trailer reminded me of Species and not in a bad way.

JUNE 11, 2010

THE A-TEAM (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action. A Special Forces team wrongly accused breaks out of military prison and becomes do-gooders for hire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 I’m wondering if this concept hasn’t been done to death by now.
COCO CHANEL AND IGOR STRAVINSKY (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Drama. A French fashion designer and Russian composer undertake a torrid love affair, Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Gorgeous music, wonderful fashions and a scandalous affair – what more could you want?
JOAN RIVERS – A PIECE OF WORK (IFC) Genre: Documentary. The legendary comedienne undergoes trials and tribulations as she fights to keep her place in the entertainment hierarchy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 I simply am not a fan of Ms. Rivers, so a documentary on her holds no interest for me whatsoever.
THE KARATE KID (Columbia) Genre: Family Action. A young American boy living in China is taken under the wing of a handyman who teaches him Kung Fu – and about life. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Was this a movie that really needed to be remade?
KINGS OF THE EVENING (Indican) Genre: Urban Drama. During the Great Depression, men compete in an underground contest for a title and five dollars. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.5 Don’t know enough about this movie to get excited about it.
MADMOISELLE CHAMBON (Lorber) Genre: Romance. An unlikely relationship blossoms between a shy elementary school teacher and a gruff contractor. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.4 Nobody does great romance movies like the French.
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE UNDEAD (Indican) Genre: Horror Comedy. The star of an off-Broadway adaptation of Hamlet is really a vampire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Shakespeare, Vampires and the Holy Grail. Throw in Broadway and you’ve got a deal!
WINTER’S BONE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Indie Drama. A bleak look at Appalachian meth cookers and a young woman’s fight to keep her land. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The best movie I’ve seen this year.

JUNE 18, 2010

8: THE MORMON’S PROPOSITION (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. An examination of how the Mormon Church has been intimately involved with anti-gay legislation, particularly California’s notorious Proposition 8. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 I’m sure that this will make for fascinating viewing, but are the Mormons the only religious organization that battled gay rights legislation?
CYRUS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Indie Comedy. A single mom’s new boyfriend has to contend with her slacker adult son. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 John C. Reilly vs. Jonah Hill for the heart of Marisa Tomei? Sounds like a winner to me!
I AM LOVE (Magnolia) Genre: Indie Drama. A wealthy Milanese family is shaken to its corner when the wife of the patriarch has an affair with her son’s partner. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Yes it sounds a bit on the soap opera side but the trailer looked magnificent.
JONAH HEX (Warner Brothers) Genre: Supernatural Western. DC Comics adaptation about a gunslinger with infernal powers seeking revenge on the rancher who wronged him. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 Josh Brolin is inspired casting for the title character.
THE KILLER INSIDE ME (IFC) Genre: Film Noir. Based on pulp writer Jim Thompson’s novel, a sheriff involved in a love triangle finds his own homicidal tendencies surfacing. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Great trailer, but wondering if Casey Affleck is the right guy for Noir.
LET IT RAIN (IFC) Genre: French Drama. A housekeeper’s son decides to film a documentary on the lady of the house’s daughter, a feminist politician – leading to chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 An interesting concept, but haven’t seen a lot of ink on this release yet.
TOY STORY 3 (Disney/Pixar) Genre: Animated Feature. When Andy goes off to college, Woody and the gang get donated to a day care center. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.3 It’s been a decade since the last one; is the magic still there?

JUNE 25, 2010

DOGTOOTH (Kino International) Genre: Drama. Three teenagers confined to a country estate by control freak parents are visited by a security guard who shakes the family to its core. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.3 I haven’t seen a whole lot of Greek cinema, so this might well be worth checking out.
GROWN UPS (Columbia) Genre: Comedy. A youth championship basketball team reunites as adults at a summer camp to celebrate the passing of their coach. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 An All-Star cast makes this a comedy worth looking into.
KNIGHT AND DAY (20th Century Fox) Genre: Action Comedy. A woman goes on a blind date with a man who turns out to be a spy who has rescuing the world on his mind. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Tom Cruise needs a hit and this figures to be it.
RESTREPO (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. Acclaimed journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger spend a year with a U.S. platoon in one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 A powerful look at what it’s like to wage war in the 21st century.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER (Cinema Libre) Genre: Documentary. Filmmaker Oliver Stone does a documentary on controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Chavez gets excoriated by the Republicans; this is a response from a man who clearly admires him.

WILD GRASS (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A stolen wallet leads to obsession and romance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Director Alain Resnais made some of the most innovative films of the French New Wave.

JUNE 30, 2010

LOVE RANCH (E1 Entertainment) Genre: Period Drama. A heavyweight prizefighter becomes part of a love triangle in one of the first legal brothels in Nevada. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 I wonder who cast Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci as a married couple?
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (Summit) Genre: Vampire Romance. Bella is torn between her vampire love and her werewolf friend while an old enemy plots revenge. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 3.3 And the hysteria continues…

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES

Killers, Splice, The A-Team, The Karate Kid, Winter’s Bone, Jonah Hex, Toy Story 3, Grown Ups, Knight and Day