Ondine (film)


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 it touches upon 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 finds a scantily clad young woman caught in his net. He sees she is alive and resuscitates her. She calls herself Ondine (Alicja Bachleda) and refuses to be taken to hospital, not wanting to be seen by anyone else. He shelters her in a caravan house that belonged to his late mother in a quiet harbor, which makes him late for 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 the woman could be a magical selkie. Annie receives a new powerchair from the CRC, and upon returning home and is greeted by Maura's boyfriend Alex (Tony Curran). Maura flips Circus off for missing the doctor who had news on a kidney match for Annie.

Next morning, Circus finds Ondine washing clothes in a stream, singing in an unknown language. She follows him on his boat to work the day. Circus pulls up only empty lobster pots, until Ondine starts singing, after which every pot contains a catch. Still not wanting to be seen, Ondine doesn't follow Circus to the fish market where the lobsters are sold. Circus buys a dress and lies to the store clerk that it's for Annie when she grows up.

When Circus picks up Annie from her school, he continues the fisherman story by explaining how the woman sings to the fish for him to catch, a song in a language he has never heard before. Annie states that Selk is the language of the selkie. Circus stammers that his lobsters hear her sing, which makes Annie curious as to whose story this is, and she secretly follows him to the caravan. When Circus asks how long she will stay, Ondine says it is up to him. Humored, Circus answers forever and happily ever after, according to the fairytale he has been building with Annie, who watches them without being noticed. Annie is back home studying all her new library books on seals and selkies. Alex says selkies are a Scottish creatures, but the one Annie saw is not.

Circus meets with the priest (Stephen Rea) for a confession, 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 her new clothing as if the experience was a first, especially when she stretches leggings over one splayed hand so it looks 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 before the child goes back to her Mam. Circus is in the library asking for books about selkies, but discovers that Annie took them all. Annie runs into some neighbourhood 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, where she finds Alex drinking beer. As Alex dries out the batteries, Annie asks again about selkies, he tells her they come from his homeland Outer Hebrides. However, Ondine doesn't speak like him.

Circus brings Ondine fishing again to steer the tiller, until a Fisheries board patrol boat zooms by, causing Ondine to hide. She begins singing again as he is pulling up his net, and finds it filled with a bountiful catch of salmon, that doesn't come from trawling. Ondine hides as the patrol boat returns 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 she could be seen, the guards accept Ondine's answer as to how the fish were caught. Glad that Ondine isn't invisible, Circus boats into the town harbor to sell their catch, where everyone stares at Ondine, including a dark-haired man who is 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 pick up Annie for local regatta festivities. Maura says she already left. Ondine gets another surprise visit from Annie, and sees the caravan has been cleaned. Learning that Annie can't swim, they both play in the shallow water, where Ondine finds something that Annie thinks is her seal coat, and they bury it in the greenhouse. Annie wants Ondine to 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's ability to breathe underwater, when Ondine 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. Back in the caravan, Circus explains he's called Circus the Clown because he was an alcoholic like Maura. He stopped drinking for Annie, yet custody went to the mother.

Back in the confessional, Circus tells the priest he sinned with Ondine the night before, and is fears the good luck she brings, since he lost hope long ago. As he leaves, 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. Circus wants Ondine to stay and asks her to wish the man away, but her 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. Alex is killed, thrown through 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. The man is also brought to the hospital, and asks Ondine why she speaks their language as they both don't belong here.

Circus and Maura both get drunk at Alex's wake. Maura wants him to get rid of Ondine, now hiding in his boat, because of bad luck. Intoxicated Circus maroons Ondine at Roancarrig Lighthouse island 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 the appearance of a seal's tail, she jumps into the sea towards the seals on Seal Rock. The priest wakes up a depressed Circus, and he brings Annie from hospital to his home. She comforts him 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. Ondine 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 then explains that she is a drug mule from Romania, and her pushta Vladic (Emil Hostina) were evading the Coast Guards, when she swam away with the backpack of heroin since Vladic can't swim. She floated in the sea until Circus saved her.

Circus brings Ondine back to Annie where they are ambushed by Vladic and another gunman, 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. He drowns going after the falling lobster pot pushed back in by Annie. Circus throws the other Romanian into the water, disarming him and the Romanian is arrested ashore, along with Ondine, who faces deportation. 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 is known for cleanliness as observed from Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.



Filming began on 18 July 2008 on location in Castletownbere, Ireland, and was scheduled to finish on 6 August 2008.[5][6] Locations seen in the film include Pulleen Harbour,[7] Roancarrigmore Lighthouse, Bantry Bay,[8] Ardnakinna Lighthouse, Bere Island,[9] and Rerrin Village, Bere Island.[10]

The wheelchair seen in the film is the Days Healthcare Escape PWR SE Folding Powerchair. The production went as far as having the chair on a wire safety to save it from falling off the pier into the water.[6]

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.[11][12]


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


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.


Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post described the film, "...like a gorgeous contemporary fairy tale..."[14] Noting the film's "spare, dreamlike quality", Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times, had praise for director of photography Christopher Doyle. "Jordan uses the push and pull between real life and legend to explore ideas of social ills, retribution, justice, family bonds and miracles in an age in which it seems there are none."[15]

Philip Concannon also noted Doyle's "atmospheric cinematography" and Kjartan Sveinsson's "haunting score". He said of Farrell's performance, "It's a lovely piece of acting,"[16] but took issue with the shift to realism at the end.

V.A. Musetto of the New York Post found the best performance that of Alison Barry as Annie, but also took exception to the shift from fantasy to reality at the end.[17] 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."[18]

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.[19]

Awards and nominations

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


Music from Icelandic group Sigur Rós and Irish singer/songwriter Lisa Hannigan is featured in the film.[20]


  1. "Ondine Scoops Golden Goblet for Best Cinematography at Prestigious Shanghai Festival". Irish Film Board. 21 June 2010. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  2. 1 2 "Ondine (2010)". Box Office Mojo. 30 September 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 "Ondine (2009) Release Info". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Ondine (2009)". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  5. "IFTN – Rea, Kirwan & Wycherley Join Farrell For 'Ondine'". Irish Film and Television Network. 29 July 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  6. 1 2 "Ondine Final Notes". Magnolia Pictures. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2015.
  7. "Welcome to the Beara Peninsula". Beara Tourism and Development Association. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  8. "Roancarrig Lighthouse". National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  9. "Ardnakinna Lighthouse". Commissioners of Irish Lights. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  10. Riddell, Helen (12 March 2015). "Colin Farrell & Alicja Bachieda filming Ondine in Rerrin Village, Bere Island". Twitter. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  11. Michaud, Sarah (30 October 2009). "Colin Farrell and Girlfriend Welcome a Son". People. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  12. Geoghegan, Kev (5 March 2010). "'Not such a fishy tale', says Farrell". BBC News. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  13. "Ondine Official website". Magnolia Pictures. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  14. O'Sullivan, Michael. "'Ondine,' with Colin Farrell, is a tale of charm and mystery", Washington Post, June 11, 2010
  15. Sharkey, Betsy (4 June 2010). "Reality and Irish mythology get tangled up in Neil Jordan's spare, dreamlike new film.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  16. Concannon, Philip (4 March 2010). "Review - Ondine". Phil on Film. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  17. Musetto, V.A. (4 June 2010). "Not a great yarn". New York Post. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  18. Pols, Mary (3 June 2010). "Ondine: A Fish-Out-of-Water Fairytale". Time Inc. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  19. "Ondine (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  20. "Ondine (2009) Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
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