Opens Fri., June 11
The woman accidentally caught in the net of Irish fisherman Syracuse (Colin Farrell) is alive. But how? Surely there’s no logical explanation for why this beautiful waif named Ondine (Polish actress Alicja Bachleda-Curus), who emerged from the sea, refuses to see a doctor, demands to be kept in hiding and sings in an unidentified foreign language. Annie (Alison Barry), Syracuse’s wheelchair-bound daughter, thinks she’s a selkie, a mythological creature that occasionally sheds its seal skin to strut among the humans. Ondine doesn’t discourage the speculation, using her mystique to bring hope into the lives of those who need it.
Take that, rational thinking, eh? The tagline for the latest from Neil Jordan suggests a tribute to fuzzy-headedness: “The truth is not what you know. It’s what you believe,” whatever that means. Surprisingly, Ondine turns out to be downright skeptical—a wise examination of the pros and cons of believing in nonsense. While Ondine brings new life to Syracuse and his sickly daughter, she also creates a whole new nest of problems, not limited to the divorced Syracuse’s fear of interspecies mating. And, it turns out, there are possible logical explanations for how she arrived.
Still, this exploration of faith and reason—a split reflected in the ravishing cinematography by former Wong Kar-Wai regular Christopher Doyle, which emphasizes coastal Ireland’s radiant greens as well as its drab grays—is nimble and trenchant. Such control is not what you expect from Jordan, one of the most inconsistent filmmakers working prominently. Jordan is following up The Brave One, an insultingly knuckle-scraping rehash of Death Wish with Jodie Foster, which was as toxic as his many clunkers (We’re No Angels, Interview With the Vampire, Michael Collins, In Dreams). Ondine isn’t as strong as his good-to-greats (Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, End of the Affair, The Good Thief) or as interesting as his bugfucks (The Company of Wolves, The Butcher Boy, Breakfast on Pluto). Rather, it’s pleasant almost to a fault—the sanest movie ever about a potential mermaid. It suggests that Jordan could chill out in his autumn years, and that that might not be a bad thing.