On DVD: Ondine Features Colin Farrell Done Right

Pursuing his scruffy-rebel, I'm-a-movie-star-but-without-the-fookin'-shite career path, Colin Farrell lurches through Neil Jordan's Ondine with the worried brow of a much older man -- I couldn't help thinking about the Dan Hedaya-esque old character actor he'll someday become. He's undoubtedly exuding imperial glamor and sincerity at the moment, though, with his dark, large, steady eyes. And good thing: In and out of theaters in a flash, Ondine needs all the amperage it can get.

A trifling, vague fairy tale of the sort filmmakers always end up making out of Irish myth, Jordan's movie is so whimsical it plays like a big fish story told to you in a lazy monologue by a silver-tongued barfly. Right at the outset, Farrell's hard-working fisherman Syracuse (an Irishman named for an ancient Greek city in Sicily?) pulls up a net full of babe -- a half-dressed, semi-conscious foreign woman (Polish-Mexican actress Alicja Bachleda), who says she doesn't remember who she is or much of anything else. Not quite suspecting her to be a full-on water sprite as his wheelchair-bound daughter does, Syracuse does what you or I would do -- takes her home to his shack and lets her move in.

Not much effort is expended in figuring out exactly who Bachleda's sexy mystery figure is, and that's fine. Ondine has no subplots and few conflicts, and the experience is kinda sweet and relaxing. It's a movie that tries to be innocent -- think about how strange and rare that sounds. We come to know Syracuse a bit, and his daughter (they got to a mobile dialysis van together everyday, where he tells her tall tales), and his cranky, lush ex-wife, all of whom could use a wash. But mostly we hang with the eponymous wild thing, as she goes swimming in dresses and straightens up the house and accompanies Syracuse fishing, where she sings Enya-esque ballads and the nets fill up. What could go wrong?

The logical, mundane "real story," that's what, leaving you crestfallen with the sense that you just spent 90 minutes daydreaming and Jordan felt compelled to ruin it. But all vacations, even travel-porn movies, must end, and the time spent on the Beara Peninsula, with its barnacled Irish villages and rocky hills, is worth it. Farrell, for once in a role that doesn't require him to harbor a bitter grudge or hanker to prove his fearlessness to the world, is gentle and lovable, while Bachleda is best remembered as a sylph-like vision beneath fashionably tousled hair and little more. Jordan's absurdly erratic career -- up to the top tier with Mona Lisa, The End of the Affair and The Butcher Boy, down to the subcellar with We're No Angels, Michael Collins and Breakfast on Pluto -- could stand a few more pleasant, unambitious brandy shots like this one.

The DVD's extras are limited to the perfunctory making-of promotional doc -- Jordan and his cast kissing each other's asses until they're sore with puckering. Honestly, is this all the DVD supplement format can net us, on average? Extras should expand our experience of the movie, or extend it. With Ondine, I would've liked a snootful of real Irish faerie lore, for one possibility -- whatever it was that got Jordan's clock ticking -- or even a day in the life of Colin back on his home turf, counting off the cigarettes and whiskies. Something.


  • Anne Chastain Carroll says:

    The only reason I saw this film was because Stephen Rea is in it. He is, hands-down, the most brilliant actor around. Quiet and unassuming, he radiates in every film he is in. And what a film legacy he has!