This weekend I treated myself to an “old-fashioned” movie – a movie minus special effects explosions and magic, fast and furious chase scenes, and torrid sex scenes one or two nude shots short of triple X theater. The movie was Ondine starring Colin Farrell as Syracuse (a.k.a. Circus) and Alicja Bachleda as Ondine. At the core of the movie is a story; that’s what I would consider old-fashioned for so many movies today lack this ingredient and are rather a series of escapades with no unifying message about life, society, or human nature. Additionally, these story-absent films often have characters, such as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Sherlock Holmes (also, Robert Downey Jr.), which are frenetically portrayed. In both Iron Man II and Sherlock Holmes I wondered why Downey seemed to be on amphetamines (Yes, I know he’s a reformed addict, but I’m not alluding to that). I found his characterizations highly annoying. Downey delivered a terrific performance in Fur. I hope soon he’ll return to acting in offbeat dramas with real story lines; if not, I’m going to scratch him from my favorite actors list.
Once again, at the heart of Ondine is a story. In a nutshell, it is the tale of a reformed, alcoholic seaman, Syracuse, who one day while out fishing nets a nearly drowned woman, Ondine. He revives her and hides her, per her request, within the house left to him by his deceased mother. Shortly thereafter, he tells his pre-adolescent daughter, handicapped by kidney disease, that he has snared a woman from the sea. His daughter, very erudite, suggests that he has captured a selkie, a mythological creature that can shed its seal skin to become human. As events unfold, Syracuse wonders if his daughter’s assertion is correct. Ondine, quite a woman of mystery, puzzles Syracuse, and when he begins to feel trepidations about his future, viewers can’t help but feel anxious and wonder how the story will end for him, his daughter, and Ondine.
Colin Farrell gives a very believable and genuine performance. It’s a sure thing that if he hadn’t, the movie would not have resonated with me. I want the actor TO BE the character. Even highly talented actors can deliver less than authentic performances; Meryl Streep’s performance in It’s Complicated comes to mind.
Alicja Bachleda was cast perfectly in the role of selkie. Her mermaid-likeness makes me think no one else could have settled into the role as well. I’m eager to see other films in which she’s appeared. She may be one of those rare gems who is both beautiful and talented.
Neil Jordan definitely seems to be filmmaker interested in telling stories. He’s one of a select group of directors who know how to lead an audience to conclusions and then surprise them in the end. That’s a gift!
So, if you’re looking for something to do on a hot, summer day that will keep you alert, challenge you, and definitely entertain you, I suggest you take a chance on Ondine.