A clever riff on the legend of the Seal’s Skin, Ondine concerns the unexpected relationship that develops after divorced Irish fisherman Syracuse (a brooding Colin Farrell), while out trawling the ocean one misty morning, nets himself a barely alive woman (Alicja Bachleda). Claiming to not know who she is, the beauty assumes the name Ondine and perpetuates the notion that she’s, in fact, a selkie (i.e. seal woman) come to life. It’s a suggestion heartily promoted by Syracuse’s tough-minded daughter Annie (Alison Barry), who – living with her drunken mother and suffering from kidney failure that requires her to use a motorized wheelchair and suffer through prolonged dialysis treatments – believes in Ondine’s potentially supernatural nature as a means of embracing a measure of hope otherwise lacking from her, and her father’s, life. Working with Christopher Doyle, whose lustrous cinematography straddles a fine line between fairy-tale gorgeousness and soggy fishing-town grunginess, writer/director Neil Jordan sets an inviting mood of mystical mystery that’s enhanced by his natural, unshowy dramatization of Syracuse’s loneliness and pain, as well as the precarious stability the former alcoholic maintains via his solitary fishing career. Rebounding after The Brave One, Jordan wraps his tale in myth – not only is Ondine potentially a magic sea creature, but Syracuse imagines himself a clown and Annie fancies herself a modern Alice. Admittedly, its titular goddess remains throughout a cutie-pie cipher, and the filmmaker undercuts his material’s seriousness by repeatedly presenting her in Victoria’s Secret lingerie. Nonetheless, Ondine is understated in its subversion of, and then canny adherence to, its chosen folklore, all the while recognizing that “once upon a times” and “happily ever afters” are achieved not through divine will but, rather, through men and women’s struggles with issues of identity, loyalty and faith.