Saturday, 21 August 2010

“Ondine”. A Review Of The 2009 Neil Jordan Film Now Released On a 2010 DVD and BLU RAY (USA).


"…It's Not Illegal…But It Is Unusual…"

*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR 'BOTH' THE DVD and BLU RAY VERSIONS ***

Colin Farrell has become a great actor - not just a good one - a great one - and there's a very real difference. As wildly differing characters, he has amassed an accumulation of powerhouse performances in "London Boulevard", "In Bruges", "Crazy Heart" and "The Way Back" – there seems little he can't do. And Director/Writer Neil Jordan was smart enough to surround him with a hugely complimentary cast on "Ondine" (filmed in 2008) that I dare say the handsome and talented Dubliner absolutely relished working with.

Set in a quiet fishing village in Southern Ireland, Farrell plays Syracuse (nick-named "Circus" because of his previous clown-like antics when drunk) who goes out to fish every day, but both life and the sea have beaten him and his boat into a hopeless wreck. But then something almost mystical happens...

The gorgeous Alicja Bachleda is "Ondine" - a woman literally fished out of the Sea into Syarcuse's trawler net one afternoon. Maybe she's a magical sea-creature - maybe she's not. She can't remember - but mysteriously she seems aware enough to not want to see 'other people' whom she perceives as dangerous. And whenever she sings on his boat, bountiful things happen to his catch - and therefore his fortunes.

Recovering from drink himself, a broken marriage to another drunk (a great performance of skill from Dervla Kirwan) and trying to keep his sick daughter alive (a sensational and touching turn by newcomer Alison Barry), Farrell's character has his hands full. He then confesses all of this to his local Catholic priest, because he knows that the confessional bounds him to secrecy (a wonderfully weary and understated turn by Stephen Rea - who has starred in 12 of Neil Jordan's movies).

But the heart of the film belongs to Alison Barry as Annie - trundling around lanes and grass pathways in her motorized wheelchair. A precocious and witty child – she comforts her troubled Dad - while also giving him a very real reason to stay sober (two years and counting). But life has cruelly lumbered Annie with a life-destroying condition of her own – a failing liver. Ever upbeat though - Annie believes in magic – fairytales – and her talks with the ethereal "Ondine" only fuel this.

But while she's playful and charming at first with the mysterious woman who seems to permanently love the sea, Annie soon wants and needs more. Weakened by the draining hours of Dialysis - she craves a cure, a proper family, a happy ending. Annie starts to dangerously believe wholeheartedly (like a child would) in the 'good luck charm' Syracuse has been blessed with. Daddy's beautiful lady in the secret cottage down by the shore is the saving of them all. Ondine wouldn't be hiding something...would she? And on the story craftily goes to a lovely Sigur Ros song sung on television towards the end...

Filmed on location, the scenery is ace, the locals are believable and the bonds that hold together and destroy a family are realistically portrayed. Believable humour even crops up from time to time - the two fishery officials peering down on Ondine tangled up in his nets instead of salmon (dialogue above). And to the cinematographer's credit they make the Beara Peninsula in Cork where it was filmed look beautiful but not like an Irish Tourist board advert. Even Colin’s Cork accent is good and lends his character a 'humbled-man' feel, which really works. And as Farrell and the intoxicating Bachleda fell in love on set for real, there's also a secret tenderness and chemistry at play between them that feels like art imitating life. It finishes on a lovely song called "Braille" by Lisa Hannigan that sees out the credits…

To sum up - "Ondine" is not a blockbuster - it's a small film with a big heart.
I had a feeling it would be good – and it is.
Lovely, lovely stuff...

Note: A WORD ABOUT THE 'BLU RAY' VERSION:
At present (February 2012) “Ondine” is on BLU RAY but only in the USA. The good news is that the 2010 American release on Magnolia Home Entertainment is 'all regions' so it will play on UK machines (type in barcode 876964003384 in Amazon and it will direct you to the correct issue).

Audio is English 5.1 DTS-HD and there are two Subtitles - English for the Hard Of Hearing and Spanish

The aspect is defaulted 1.85:1 so it fills the entire screen and it's BEAUTIFUL to look at about 90% of the time. There are moments when blocking appears (the opening shots – the intruders at night in their home) but these are few and far between. The clarity when Colin’s in the confessional with Stephen Rea – when he’s talking head to head with his daughter – absolutely spot on – and a joy to look at.

The 2 Extras are 10 and 8 minutes and have interviews with most of the cast and the Director – very nice – if not a little short.

If you can plum the extra for the BR then go for it – because this is a movie that shines on this format…

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