On the coast of Cork, Syracuse is a divorced fisherman who has stopped drinking. His precocious daughter Annie has failing kidneys. One day, he finds a nearly-drowned young woman in his net; she calls herself Ondine and wants no one to see her. He puts her up in an isolated cottage that was his mother's. Annie discovers Ondine's presence and believes she is a selkie, a seal that turns human while on land. Syracuse is afraid to hope again.
I respond well to movies with honesty and heart, and Ondine has plenty of both. Set in an Irish fishing town, you can also feel the love and respect of the filmmaker for the rugged and beautiful setting. The performances are excellent, with especially good work by the the young Alison Barry playing the part of Colin Farrell's daughter, who suffers from kidney failure and must undergo regular dialysis (reminded me of the early work of Dakota Fanning).
The film's "feel" is a bit darker than I expected, making the injections of wry Irish humor in Colin's confessions to the priest (played by Stephen Rea) even more enjoyable. The script keeps you wondering until very near the end, "Is this really a modern fairy tale, or is there a more earthly explanation?" The soundtrack is appropriately plaintive, with songs by Lisa Hannigan and others. I definitely plan to buy the soundtrack. Because this film is low-key and thoughtful, it probably will not receive the attention from audiences it deserves. But serious moviegoers should take the time to watch, enjoy and appreciate.
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