Neither fish nor fowl
Ondine, fantasy thriller, rated PG-13, CCA Cinematheque, 3 chiles
Neil Jordan has explored fantasy and folklore in movies like In the Company of Wolves (1984) and Interview With the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles ( 1994). And in his best movie, the gender-bender The Crying Game (1992), he took shape-shifting to a shivery level with a deliciously confounding twist that left audiences gasping (and won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay).
With Ondine, Jordan returns to those waters and fishes out a beautiful, mysterious womanlike creature (Alicja Bachleda) from the deep. She comes up in the net of an Irish fisherman, Syracuse (Colin Farrell), off the Beara Peninsula in southwest Ireland. Amazingly, she’s alive, and after a lot of choking and coughing that make you wonder if it’s the water she’s swallowed or the air she’s breathing that’s causing her trouble, she stabilizes and gives her name to the fisherman as Ondine. This may not be her real name, as it’s from an old German folk tale about a water nymph who curses her lover to die of sleep apnea; but then, she may not be a real woman, either.
Annie (Alison Barry) thinks Ondine is a selkie. Annie is Syracuse’s daughter; she’s a plucky, wise-beyond-her-years 10-year-old who rides around in a motorized wheelchair as a result of failing kidneys that have her doing regular sessions with a dialysis machine. Selkies, as you may recall from the 1984 John Sayles movie The Secret of Roan