With the current economic downfall, Americans want to go to the movies to escape their everyday lives and see a fairytale unfold on screen. The new fantasy-drama ‘Ondine,’ starring Colin Farrell and newcomer Alicja Bachleda, will not only provide audiences with a story they can relate to, but also integrates mythical legends onto the script to take them away to a fantasy world.
‘Ondine’ tells the story of Syracuse (played by Farrell), a down-on-his-luck Irish fisherman dealing with being estranged from his ten-year-old daughter Annie (played by Alison Barry) and adjusting to life as a recovering alcoholic. One day while unsuccessfully trying to catch fish on his boat, Syracuse instead catches a woman in one of his nets. He automatically assumes she is dead, and is shocked when he sees her moving. He insists on bringing her to the hospital, but the woman refuses, as she doesn’t want to be seen in public.
Syracuse takes the woman (played by Polish actress Bachleda), who doesn’t seem to remember anything about why she was in the water and calls herself Ondine, to his mother’s house to spend the night. At first, he believes he dreamt the entire incident, but when he goes back to the house the next day, Ondine is still there. Syracuse agrees not to tell anyone she’s there, but does confide in his priest (played by Stephen Rea in a small role), who is helping him stay sober.
Syracuse also tells Annie about Ondine in an effort to make her feel better, as she’s in a wheelchair and undergoing dialysis. He pretends she is a real ondine, who, in legend, is an immortal water nymph who has a beautiful voice and cannot get a soul unless she marries a mortal man and has a child. Annie believes the legend is true, since Syracuse’s luck as a fisherman drastically improves when Ondine goes on board with him and sings.
Syracuse and Ondine end up falling in love, and their relationship goes well until a car crash interrupts their lives. Someone from her past also shows up, threatening her new found happiness with Syracuse and Annie.
Writer/producer/director Neil Jordan is responsible for bringing the, which is set to open in the U.S. on June 4, to life during a season of big budget blockbusters. While many will wrongly forgo this contemporary fairytale for the likes of ‘Iron Man 2,’ audiences shouldn’t look down upon Jordan’s personal project.
Jordan first got the idea for a story about a fisherman who catches a woman in his net several years ago. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, but decided to start working on the script for ‘Ondine’ during the 2007-08 Hollywood writers strike. He knew the chances of working on a big studio movie at that time were unlikely, so he headed to his native Ireland to write the script. This decision led to the movie having an intimate, realistic feel.
The locations around Jordan’s Castletownbere home were used as the inspirations for the settings in the movie, which worked well. The characters therefore not only had an intimate relationship with their fellow characters, but the town and the settings as well. Fellow producers James Flynn from Octagon Films and Ben Browning from Wayfare Entertainment were even surprised at the realism the scripts’ locations had. Browning said that when he went to Castletownbere to meet with Jordan, “…it felt as if we were walking through the script; everything from McCarthy’s Bar, to the street in Castletownbere and up to Poulin Harbour-everything that we saw seemed to come to life in terms of the screenplay.”
Jordan also made a smart decision when he cast Farrell in the lead of Syracuse. When Farrell first started acting professionally, he was able to show his true ability in lesser-known roles, including the BBC drama ‘Ballykissangel,’ as well as ‘The War Zone,’ his film debut, and ‘Tigerland,’ his break-out role. However, when he began being cast in bigger-budget, well-known movies, including the adaptations of ‘Daredevil,’ ‘S.W.A.T.,’ ‘Alexander’ and ‘Miami Vice,’ the studios relied more on his celebrity status than his acting ability to sell the films.
When it came time to cast ‘Ondine,’ Jordan said he immediately thought of Farrell. “I don’t think (Colin) has been truly explored as an actor,” Jordan said. “When I saw (Colin) in ‘Tigerland,’ which was the first thing I saw him in, I thought he was absolutely marvelous. He then did a lot of big movies and became a star.” Jordan rightfully expressed the sentiment that “It was almost like acting wasn’t demanded of him as it was largely action features he appeared in.”
Since checking into rehab for drug use and allegations of sex tapes in 2005, Farrell has smartly chosen to star in lower-budget and independent movies, including ‘Ondine.’ Jordan also said that it was refreshing to see Farrell return in the Martin McDonagh movie ‘In Bruges,’ for which he won a 2009 Golden Globe for Best Actor, because “…you saw somebody returning to his roots.”
Farrell was able to connect with Syracuse, as they both Irish, have children with former girlfriends and are struggling with addictions, which was well-translated on the screen. The Irish Film and Television Awards, the Irish equivalent to the Academy Awards, also seemed to agree, as they awarded him with the statue for Actor in a Lead Role – Film on February 20, 2010.
Farrell seemed to connect with Barry, who made her feature debut in ‘Ondine.’ Barry was able to exude the confidence a ten-year-old needs to comfortably roll around town in a wheelchair without being embarrassed by her medical condition.
Barry was also able to connect with Bachleda on-screen. Since Annie is lonely when she’s not with her father, as her mother is emotionally distant and an alcoholic, she is happy when Ondine takes an interest in her. Being the only main child character in the movie, Barry was able to translate her own feelings of loneliness onto the screen.
Bachleda also fit well into her first major American movie role. Jordan took a chance when he insisted that the actress who played the title character in his independent movie be an unknown, especially against Farrell’s star power. But Magnolia and Paramount Vintage, who jointly distributed the movie, rightfully decided to listen. As Jordan said, ‘She seemed perfect for the role. She had both this otherworldly dreamy quality and a startling voluptuousness and sensuality at the same times. She turned out to be a great actress.’
Bachleda was successfully able to play Ondine as someone who was unsure of whom she really is. Since this is her first major American role, she didn’t have a particular stereotype she had to live up to, and was able to navigate Ondine’s feelings as she went.
While she did have good chemistry with Barry and was able to connect to Ondine, Bachleda and Farrell’s chemistry, however, seemed to fall flat at times throughout the movie. While the two were supposed to be passionately in love, throughout most of the movie, he seemed to want to protect her in more of a friendship way. However, Farrell had nothing but nice things to say about his co-star’s acting abilities. “(Alicja’s) really smart, has a lot of craft and works really hard.” He added that many of her scenes weren’t glamorous, but “…there wasn’t a single whimper of disgruntlement from (Alicja).”
Jordan has had a lot of success in his career, having won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the 1992 movie ‘The Crying Game.’ The movie’s unexpected success led to him being chosen to direct the successful 1994 adaptation of the Anne Rice novel ‘Interview with the Vampire,’ starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The last movie he directed before ‘Ondine’ was 2007’s ‘The Brave One,’ for which Jodie Foster was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress. While ‘Ondine’ may not prove to be as financially successful at the box office as his earlier hits, it further showed his abilities as a director. The movie, which was rated PG-13 for some violence, sensuality and brief strong language, will certainly appeal to mainly women who still believe in fairytales.
‘Ondine’ will be available on VOD, XBOX & Amazon on Friday, May 7th.
Written by: Karen Benardello