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Film / Ondine

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Ondine is a 2009 Irish romantic drama film starring Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Alison Barry and Stephen Rea. It is the first film to be both written and directed by Neil Jordan since The Crying Game.

The film is set in the West of Ireland. Farrell plays a fisherman called Syracuse who catches a woman in his net one day. The woman is mysterious and wishes not to be seen by people. Syracuse's daughter Annie suspects she is a selkie.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Despite having nearly drowned, Ondine bursts out laughing when she gets the pun behind Syracuse's nickname.
  • The Alcoholic: Syracuse and Maura, the difference is Syracuse has kicked his addiction.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The song Ondine sings is just a foreign pop song, but Syracuse was briefly convinced it was magical.
  • As You Know: Annie gives Ondine a list of selkie rules. Subverted and coupled with Fridge Brilliance after the twist.
  • Bitch Alert: Annie's mother. She doesn't get any nicer.
  • Catchphrase: Annie, "curiouser and curiouser". See Shout-Out below.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Annie and Ondine find something in the water and bury it in the garden. Annie thinks it's her seal coat but it's really the drugs she was helping smuggle.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Syracuse and Ondine/Joanna to allow her to stay in the country.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Alex being the perfect candidate to donate a kidney to Annie after the car crash, just as Syracuse makes a wish. Funnily enough this one doesn't make sense after the twist.
  • Daddy's Girl: Annie though it's not hard since he's the only competent parent she has.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Annie needs a new kidney, and uses a wheelchair, though she can walk (presumably she's easily tired). She's a cute, very sweet young girl who doesn't seem affected by this much.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alex turns out to have three kids in Scotland he abandoned with his wife there. They don't show up at his funeral, saying Maura can have him.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Ondine isn't really a selkie, just a really good swimmer. The song she sings is actually a foreign pop song and her selkie husband is a drug smuggler.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Syracuse and his ex-wife do not have a healthy relationship, and it's entirely her fault.
    • Joanna turns out to be married, with a husband who's a vicious drug smuggler and treats her about as bad as you would expect.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Syracuse dislikes being called "Circus" because it serves as a reminder of his alcoholic past.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The first 60% of the film is a romantic drama with a fairytale feel to it. The last 40% is a crime thriller.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Everybody drops what they're doing to gawk at Ondine when Syracuse returns to port with her standing on deck. Granted, she is a beautiful woman who's wearing a sexy dress at that moment, but the other fishermen on every single damn ship in the harbor act like they've never seen any remotely attractive female being in the flesh ever before.
  • Idiot Ball: Syracuse grabs it firmly during Alex's wake when he, a recovering alcoholic, gets pissed as a fart and proceeds to ditch the beautiful, caring woman that brought him nothing but unnatural luck, just because his abusive asshole wife told him so. Sadly a result of peer pressure.
  • Informed Attribute: Syracuse gets called "Circus" all the time, supposedly because he was a funny drunk. When we finally see him drunk, he's not funny at all.
  • Leg Focus: Ondine does like to wear dresses that show off her lovely legs, be it the one Syracuse bought for her, or the ones she picked by herself later. Clothes aside, there's a whole scene dedicated to nothing else but Ondine's naked legs when she dives out of sight on his boat and continues to steer with one foot while sitting on the floor. The sexiness overload actually prompts Syracuse to awkwardly adjust his collar.
  • Light-Haired Swimmer: Ondine has blonde hair and even though she's not really a selkie she's still a good swimmer.
  • Lingerie Scene: Ondine gets quite a few of them as she tries on various underwear at a store or is shown changing later.
  • Magic Realism: Subverted, as at first it seems like Ondine is a selkie in the otherwise normal modern Irish setting. Then however it turns out she's just a woman, with the selkie stuff being coincidences and misidentification.
  • Meaningful Name: Ondine means "out of the water".
  • Mood Whiplash: The film's light-hearted first half turns very grim when Alex dies in a car crash, Syracuse falls off the wagon, Ondine reveals she's just a drug smuggler and they get hunted by her drug baron. Things then return to light-hearted when Syracuse and Ondine (real name Joanna) get married at the end.
  • Ms. Fanservice: There's no real reason for Ondine to wear nothing but sexy outfits throughout the whole movie while everyone else dresses like the hardy port residents they are, but she does it anyway, and the camera sure enjoys portraying gorgeous Alicja Bachleda in all her glory whenever she has any screentime.
  • Oireland: Mostly averted with an Irish cast though Colin Farrell does seem to slip into it a bit with his heavy Cork accent.
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • When Annie first meets Ondine, she rattles off a list of selkie rules. Close inspection of the latter's face shows a reaction more like Sure, Let's Go with That.
    • When Ondine sings to entice the lobsters, Syracuse says that they had to already be in the pots. Since her song is just a foreign pop song, he's right.
  • Running Gag: Syracuse being called "Circus" by just about everybody again and again despite his ceaseless protest. Even the priest gets in on it several times.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: Ondine/Joanna's drug baron attacks in the third act along with his thugs. They're Romanians, as is she (she's actually his wife) and come into Ireland to get back their drug shipment with brutal efficiency (though they're stopped).
  • Scenery Porn: Plenty of shots showcasing the Irish countryside.
  • Scotireland: Selkie is the Scottish name for mythical creatures the Irish usually call merrows. Even so, the Irish characters all use "selkie" for Ondine, and "merrow" is only mentioned. Alex, who is Scottish, lampshades this.
  • Selkies and Wereseals: Ondine is suspected of being a selkie, though she displays some traits that don't match mythology - such as a haunting singing voice (see the Sirens). She's not a selkie at all.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Ondine gets a couple of these after going swimming in her dress.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot:
  • Shout-Out: Annie's catchphrase is one to Alice in Wonderland.
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: Sirens Are Selkies, in this case. Ondine has a haunting singing voice that is said to hypnotize lobsters and fish into the nets.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: It turns out Ondine is married after she's slept with Syracuse, but she stays sympathetic because her husband's a ruthless, abusive criminal.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Syracuse is a cynical, reclusive, recovering alcoholic fisherman who one day brings up a selky named Ondine (Romanian drug mule) in his fishing net. She brings luck and can grant wishes. Can Ondine help Syracuse learn to live, love, and trust? Yes. They get married.
  • Underwear Swimsuit: When Ondine teaches Annie to swim, they both go into the water in their underwear.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Syracuse looks like he's never even touched a comb or razor. General consensus is that this makes the already Mr. Fanservice Colin Farrell even more attractive. Ondine, although looking a lot more civilized than him, most definitely counts as well-she's gorgeous but her hair's messy throughout most of the film.
  • Weirdness Censor: The two officials that board Syracuse's ship for inspection halfway into the movie appear to be a lot more concerned with the fact that a specific net of his isn't wet than with the other fact that there's a young, scantily dressed, completely unknown woman hiding underneath said net in the ship's hold. Syracuse himself seems to find the whole situation fairly entertaining, and once the officials have left without much of a fuss, it's never brought up again.
  • Wild Hair: Syracuse. Ondine to a somewhat lesser but still valid degree.
  • Wise Beyond Her Years: Annie is very intuitive and Genre Savvy to the world around her, but this still clashes with her childhood innocence.
  • Women Are Wiser: Averted with Maura, Annie's mother who is an alcoholic mess. Even her equally boozed-up husband is more competent than her.