Ondine (film)

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Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by Neil Jordan
Produced by Ben Browning
James Flynn
Neil Jordan
Written by Neil Jordan
Starring Colin Farrell
Alicja Bachleda
Music by Kjartan Sveinsson
Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Edited by Tony Lawson
Wayfare Entertainment
Little Wave
Octagon Films
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures
Paramount Vantage
Release dates
  • 14 September 2009 (2009-09-14) (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • 5 March 2010 (2010-03-05) (Ireland)
  • 4 June 2010 (2010-06-04) (USA)
Running time
111 minutes
Country Ireland[1]
Language English
Budget $12 million[2]
Box office $1,644,755[2]

Ondine is a 2009 Irish romantic drama film directed and written by Neil Jordan and starring Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda. The film was shot on location in Castletownbere, Ireland, and touches the possible existence of the mythological selkie bringing hope and love to humans they so much want to become.

The film had its North American premiere as part of the Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2009 in Toronto, Canada, and European premiere as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on 18 February 2010 in Dublin, Ireland.[3]


Syracuse "Circus" (Colin Farrell) is trawling with his fishing boat and pulls up a catch and finds a barely dressed young woman caught in his net. He sees she is alive and resuscitates her. She calls herself Ondine (Alicja Bachleda) and refuses the idea to be taken to hospital as she doesn't want to be seen by anyone else. Circus accepts she has no memory to explain her situation. He shelters her in a caravan home on a quiet bay that belonged to his late mother. This makes him late at picking up his wheelchair bound daughter Annie (Alison Barry) who lives with his ex-wife Maura (Dervla Kirwan). During Annie's dialysis, he tells her a story about a fisherman that catches a woman out of the sea. Annie explains how the woman could be a magical selkie. They pick up a new powerchair from the CRC, Annie is returned back where she is greeted by Maura's boyfriend Alex (Tony Curran). Maura flips Circus off for missing the doctor for news on a kidney match for Annie, he returns back to his empty house alone.

Next morning, Circus heads to the caravan, and finds Ondine singing gracefully in a foreign language while washing clothes in a stream. She follows him on his boat to work the day. No surprise, Circus pulls up only empty lobster pots, until Ondine starts signing, then every one after that contain a catch. He doesn't believe her singing was magical since the lobsters were already trapped. Still not wanting to be seen, Ondine doesn't come with Circus to the fish market where the lobsters are sold for a handsome profit, as there aren't supposed to be any left. Circus buys a dress and lies to the store clerk that it's for Annie when she grows up.

Circus picks up Annie at school, instead she races him to her home in her powerchair. Circus continues the fisherman story to Annie, how the woman sings to the fish and he catches them, song in a language he has never heard before. Annie adds Selk is the language of the selkie, and communicate underwater by song. Circus stammers that his lobsters hear her sing, which makes Annie curious as to who's story this is, and secretly follows him to the caravan. Circus presents the messages (Irish slang for sundries) to Ondine, who is putting on some boots but stops at doing the laces, Circus does them for her because he thinks she's never seen boots before. Asking how long she will stay, Ondine says it is up to him. Humored, Circus answers forever and happily ever after, riding the fairytale he has been building with Annie, who is watching them without being noticed. Annie is back home studying all her new library books on seals and selkies, as Alex is seen with a beer in the far background playing Air guitar. Alex says selkies are a Scottish thing, but not the one Annie saw.

Circus goes to the local church to make a confession to the priest (Stephen Rea), who has repeatedly told Circus that this isn't AA. Circus recalls a recurring nightmare where he is at Alex's funeral and reunited with Maura, still with her drinking problem. As the priest pushes the subject away, Circus brings up the woman he pulled out of the water with his net and kept her. Ondine is by herself tidying up the caravan, and tries all her new clothing as if the experience was a first, especially when she stretches leggings over one splayed hand so it appears webbed. The next day, Ondine is swimming and is met by an unexpected Annie, they bond together talking about selkies, none of which Ondine denies, kissing Annie goodbye when she leaves back to her Mam.

Circus is in the library looking for books about selkies, but the librarian (Norma Sheahan) says Annie took them all. Annie runs into some neighborhood kids showing off their bicycles, lets one of the kids play with her powerchair, it shorts out driving into water. The kids abandon "spaz" Annie, who is left alone to push it back home, to find Alex drinking beer. As Alex dries out the batteries, Annie asks him again about selkies, and is told they come from his homeland Outer Hebrides, but Ondine doesn't speak like him. An unscrupulous dark-haired man is seen looking for someone at Roancarrig Lighthouse island by Seal Rock, presumably where Circus found Ondine.

Circus brings Ondine fishing again to steer the tiller, until a Fisheries board patrol boat zooms by, causing Ondine to hide down and continue steering with her leg, which Circus lets her carry on and is embarrassed of his attraction to Ondine, who begins singing again as he is pulling up his net, and shockingly finds it filled with a bountiful catch of salmon, that doesn't come from a trawling. Ondine hides as the patrol boat return to inspect for prohibited gillnetting, the guards look for the truth by finding dry gillnets and Ondine hidden in them. Circus wasn't sure if the guards could see her, Ondine helps them believe how the fish were impossibly caught, like some fairytale. Glad that Ondine isn't an imagination, Circus boats into the town harbor to sell their catch, where everyone stares at Ondine, including the man looking for her. Circus and Ondine go shopping for clothes and run into Annie, who helps her with outfits, as townsfolk gawk through the store window eyeing a very pretty Ondine.

Later, Circus wants to pickup Annie for local Regatta festivities, Maura says she already left to see the Water Baby. Annie says the caravan has been cleaned up by Snow White. Surprised that Annie can't swim, they both play in the shallow water, where Ondine finds something that Annie thinks is the selkie's seal coat. They bury it in the greenhouse so Ondine can stay for seven years, unless the selkie husband claims her back, and shares this with Circus as they all boat into town, Ondine warns Annie that she isn't selk and can't grant wishes. Upset, Annie pretends to have brake failure to throw herself off the pier, to test Ondine for breathing underwater, who jumps in to her rescue. They bring Annie back to Maura and Alex, who share with Annie that a man was asking for Ondine. This gives Annie a nightmare about the selkie husband coming. Ondine and Circus back in the caravan, explains he's Circus the Clown because he was an alcoholic like Maura. He stopped for Annie, yet custody went to the mother.

Back with the priest, Circus confesses he made love to Ondine the night before, and is afraid of the good luck she brings, since he lost hope long ago. As he leaves outside on his way to Annie, the unknown man approaches him about Ondine, Circus ignores him. Circus brings Annie back from dialysis, but is locked out since Maura and Alex are drinking in a pub, Annie asks to be left with them. Circus returns to find the caravan has been ransacked, and Ondine hiding nearby from the man looking to take her back. Circus brings up Annie's claim of selkies granting wishes, and asks her to wish the man away, but Ondine's only wish is for Annie not to be sick. Ondine's man is back in town driving with rage, causing an accident with Maura who was drunk driving, killing Alex who is thrown dead out the windshield. Ondine and Circus follow Annie to the hospital, and learn she is getting an immediate kidney transplant from Alex who opted as a donor. Ondine accidentally runs into her man, who asks why she speaks their langauge and says they don't belong here.

Circus is with Maura at the funeral, they both get drunk at the wake, and wants him to get rid of Ondine because of bad luck, now hiding in his boat. Intoxicated and irrational, Circus maroons Ondine at the lighthouse because he thinks she will haunt him forever, as humans and selk don't belong together. Dusk comes and some driftwood gives Ondine's basking shilouette to have a seal tail, she jumps into the sea towards the seals at Seal Rock. Having slept in a tree overnight, the priest wakes up a depressed Circus, brings Annie from hospital to his home, she comforts him by saying Ondine will be back because she left something behind. Annie watches TV with Sigur Rós performing, Circus recognizes they are the songs of Ondine, and goes back to find her on Seal Rock to demand the truth. She gives one version that she is a sea creature that found her seal coat and buried it so she can stay with a family she loves. She unfolds how she is a drug mule from Romania, and her pushta Vladic (Emil Hostina) were evading the Coast Guards, swam away with the backpack of heroin since he couldn't, floated in the sea to drown until Circus saved her.

Circus brings Ondine back to Annie where they are ambushed by Vladic and another Romanian, that Annie thinks want the seal coat. Everyone goes to the greenhouse to dig it up, but find nothing because Annie had moved it. Ondine promises to stay with Annie, revealing it was moved to a lobster pot. As they pull that up, Annie reminds Ondine that she is a selkie yet Vladic isn't, Ondine trips Vladic overboard by pulling on the rope he is standing on, who drowns going after the falling lobster pot, while Circus tackles the other Romanian into the water, eventually securing him and is arrested ashore, along with Ondine, who faces deportation if she doesn't become a national. Annie is seen making a confession to the priest who is to wed Circus and Ondine, completing the fairytale how selkie women often find unexpected happiness with a landsman.



"Curiouser and curiouser!" is what Alice said to the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

Snow White implied cleanliness observed from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (and not so much from the Brothers Grimm).



Filming began on 18 July 2008 on location in Castletownbere, Ireland, and was scheduled to finish on 6 August 2008.[5]

As a result of shooting together for this film, Colin Farrell fathered a child, Henry Tadeusz Farrell (born October 2009), with co-star Alicja Bachleda.[6]


The film was rated PG-13 for some violence, sensuality and brief strong language by the MPAA.[7]


Ondine had its North American premiere as part of the Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2009 in Toronto, Canada, and European premiere as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on 18 February 2010 in Dublin, Ireland.[3]

The film was released in Ireland on 5 March 2010, and the United States on 4 June 2010[3] by Magnolia Pictures.


Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 70% based on 94 reviews, with the site's consensus: Flawed but charming, Ondine reaffirms writer-director Neil Jordan's gift for myth, magic, and wonder.[8]

Critics praised the film for its atmospheric almost dreamlike quality[9] while some have criticised the ending.[10][11] Critics have also praised the performances of Colin Farrell and Alison Barry as Annie, with Mary Pols stating: "Barry is such a relaxed and strong performer that she manages to shrug off the burden of Annie's precociousness."[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Irish Film and Television Awards for Ondine (Octagon Films), 20 February 2010:

  • Actor in a Lead Role: Film: Colin Farrell
  • Supporting Actress in a Film: Dervla Kirwan
  • Production Design: Anna Rackard
  • Sound: Brendan Deasy, Tom Johnson & Sarah Gaines


Music from Icelandic group Sigur Rós and Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan feature strongly in the film.[13]


  1. ^ "Ondine Scoops Golden Goblet for Best Cinematography at Prestigious Shanghai Festival". Irish Film Board. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Ondine (2010)". Box Office Mojo. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Ondine (2009) Release Info". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ondine (2009)". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  5. ^ "IFTN – Rea, Kirwan & Wycherley Join Farrell For 'Ondine'". Iftn.ie. 29 July 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  6. ^ Michaud, Sarah (30 October 2009). "Colin Farrell and Girlfriend Welcome a Son". People. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "Ondine Official website". Magnolia Pictures. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 
  8. ^ "Ondine (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Review from LA times". Los Angeles Times. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Review From Philonfilm". Philonfilm.blogspot.com. 4 March 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Review from". NYpost.com. 4 June 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  12. ^ Pols, Mary (3 June 2010). "Review from". Time.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Ondine (2009) Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2015. 

External links[edit]