Director: Neil Jordan
Starring: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda
Runtime: 111 Mins
Review: Laura Coleman
Ironically Neil Jordan’s Ondine aims to parody the fairytale genre, but proceeds to do just the opposite. Initially this seems untrue – set on the rugged coast of Ireland, the photography is suitably idyllic, with plenty of artistically angled shots and dreamy underwater acoustics. Jordan’s plot is less watertight, however. The synopsis – fisherman Syracuse one day hauls in a young woman, believes she is a mermaid and promptly falls in love – harbours the potential for an ingenious spoof on conventional fairytales. Where the film slips up, though, is by allowing its predictability to exceed the deliberate and become unintentional. Farrell and the others do their best with the script, and there are some genuinely heated exchanges; but whenever the characters leave off tearing each other’s hair out, the dialogue is halting and clichéd. Then there is the development in several characters of refrains of speech, doubtless an attempt to play with the genre’s tendency towards repetition; but the frequency and predictability of these lines makes them awkward. One such example is Annie, Syracuse’s precocious daughter, whose catchphrase of “curiouser and curiouser” is used too showily to sound innocently charming.
Even when the fairytale is dispelled and Ondine’s true identity and origin are revealed, the story remains predictable and improbable: the catchphrases remain, loose ends are tied from all quarters and the story, against all odds, regains its calm. The makers clearly enjoy exploring the capacity of fairytale for wish-fulfilment, but the film fails to avoid falling repeatedly into the genre’s tired conventions.