Off the coast of County Cork, a gloomy fisherman named Syracuse (Colin Farrell), adrift in his own life, gets a surprise in his net: a beautiful, frightened woman (Alicja Bachleda). He dubs her "Ondine," after the water nymph, and hides her away a cottage, while spinning out a yarn to his ailing daughter Annie (Alison Barry) about landing a mermaid. But precocious Annie thinks he's found a "selkie," a seal-like creature of Celtic myth, who can attain human form and even marry a "landsman." Ondine does act oddly, and then there's the spectacular good luck Syracuse has enjoyed since having the mysterious woman sing weird but beguiling songs to the waves.
Writer-director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) combines a winsome, whimsical fairy tale with a sharper-edge tale of hardscrabble contemporary life. It's buoyant, engaging and amiably zigs and zags, quietly defying our expectations. The work is further buoyed by fine camerawork from Christopher Doyle, and just-right moody music from Sigur Rós' Kjartan Sveinsson. Plus, it's great to see the Farrell back at work, even if he's sporting his second-worst movie hairdo after Alexander. Starts Fri., July 23. Oaks