Filmmaker Neil Jordan’ whimsical film fable, “Ondine,” is not likely to be a big box office splash. That is, it’s no “Splash,” the 1984 Tom Hanks hit. What both movies share is the mermaid-meets-mortal love story.
Where “Splash” handles it in a laugh-filled Hollywood way, the romance in “Ondine” is more mysterious, darker and deeper. But, in many ways, more meaningful.
Recovering alcoholic fisherman Syracuse (Colin Farrell) is retrieving his net in the melancholy waters off Ireland, when he discovers a beautiful girl (Alicja Bachleda) entangled along with his daily catch. Calling herself, Ondine, the watery maiden secretively says that she wants to be hidden away by her new savior, her presence revealed to no one else. For this, we later learn, she will bring him good luck by singing to the fishes, that will gladly jump into his net.
Her being gorgeous and him being lonely and divorced, he puts her up in his dead mother’s isolated atmospheric cottage, then takes her on his runs to do her singing and make him money. All goes well, until his young wheelchair-bound daughter, Annie (Alison Barry), catches on to Dad’s strange catch. Cute and precocious, Annie pegs Ondine as a “selkie,” a mythical sea creature (half human, half seal), instantly connecting her to all the Celtic lore surrounding it; some of which has to do with the granting of wishes.
Wishes, fishes and hope are major factors in writer/director Jordan’s story, that doesn’t shy away from reality at its most disappointing. Jordan also doesn’t shy away from humor, which comes in dry droves during the confessional conversation between Syracuse and his priest pal (Stephen Rea).
“Ondine” is a uniquely satisfying film for this or any other summer. Catch it.