Sealed with a kiss

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

GLANCE AT most direc­tors’ oeu­vres and you will spot a few films that, rather than stand­ing as ma­jor opuses, comes across as ca­sual, off-the-cuff ex­er­cises. Neil Jor­dan’s The Mir­a­cle is one such film. Writ­ten dur­ing de­lays caused by the Hol­ly­wood writ­ers’ strike, On­dine is very cer­tainly an­other. (As it hap­pens both films take place in Ir­ish sea­side towns, but let’s not seek the­matic ten­drils where none ex­ist.)

Filmed with char­ac­ter­is­tic smoky grace by the great Chris Doyle, this strange, dreamy film stars Colin Far­rell as Syra­cuse, a trou­bled Cork trawler­man strug­gling to stay off the booze. The film be­gins with the hero dis­cov­er­ing an ex­ot­i­cally ac­cented women (Alicja Bach­leda) curled among the her­ring in his net.

Syra­cuse in­tro­duces On­dine, as she is known, to his dis­abled daugh­ter (Ali­son Barry), who be­gins to sus­pect that the stranger might be one of those myth­i­cal seal-women known to the an­cient Celts as selkies. Sure enough, when On­dine sings, sal­mon leap into Syra­cuse’s net.

Jor­dan has taken some artis­tic risks with the ma­te­rial. This some­what mag­i­cal, fan­ci­ful ver­sion of west Cork – the quasi-po­etic di­a­logue takes place un­in­ter­rupted by e-mail, video games or any other com­pli­ca­tions of the mod­ern era – is the sort of imag­ined lo­cale more likely to ap­peal to vis­it­ing for­eign film-mak­ers. But, aided by the Hong Kong-based Doyle’s out­sider eye and a ten­der per­for­mance from Far­rell, Jor­dan does (just about) man­age to avoid sen­ti­men­tal­is­ing the twinkly en­vi­ron­ment.

But On­dine’s un­sure at­ti­tude to­wards its myth­i­cal con­ceit causes larger prob­lems. The slip­pery, in­se­cure story never quite clar­i­fies how se­ri­ously we are to take the no­tion that the damp woman may be (es­sen­tially) a mar­itime fairy. On oc­ca­sion, when the prose po­etry flows, the idea seems per­fectly plau­si­ble. Else­where the sug­ges­tion risks tip­ping the film into hi­lar­i­ous ab­sur­dity.

Ul­ti­mately the plot shakes it­self to­gether and ties up its loose ends into sat­is­fac­to­rily neat lit­tle bows. But On­dine still feels more like an ac­com­plished sketch than a fully achieved mas­ter­work.

Colin Far­rell and Alicja Bach­leda in On­dine

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