Who's In It: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Stephen Rea, Dervla Kirwan, Alison Barry
The Basics: On the Irish coast, a melancholy loner fisherman named Syracuse (but nicknamed "Circus" for his formerly drunken ways) lives for the arranged custody visitation time he's allowed to spend with his wheelchair-driving, kidney-function-impaired daughter. Eventually another woman enters his life, a beautiful but near-dead person he catches in his boat's nets, one whom he believes to be a mermaid. She fits the bill all the way: spending her time reclining on rocks, diving into ice-cold ocean water with ease, and singing spooky songs in an unidentifiable language that appear to be bringing Syracuse more fish-catching success. But right around the time his daughter casually mentions that the Water Lady is just covering a Sigur Ros song, things start to unravel...
What's The Deal: During her visits to the dialysis center, Farrell's daughter wants to be told stories, so he obliges her by simply recounting his possibly magical adventures with the possibly magical woman. Of course you know something is up, but the movie flirts with the idea that the something in question might be salvation via a real live mermaid. Thing is, if you've seen director Neil Jordan's other "small" movies like Mona Lisa, The Miracle and The Crying Game, you know that he's the guy telling you the fractured fairy tales and they all have something in common--his characters love the idea that something good and pure and possibly even miraculous could be entering their grubby lives, only to eventually uncover the secret dark truth. I won't ruin it for you but there's a reason a mysterious Other Man keeps stalking the sexy seaweedess.
What It's Not: Though it deals with the hope of something magical, it's short on the kind of whimsical fluff you'd expect from a movie about a mermaid. Jordan's too in love with romantic gloom for that. But again, it is sort of predictable if you're aware of his habits as a filmmaker. And there's no big Crying Game surprise, either, like he could ever pull off that sort of thing again now that people are routinely spoiling films left and right on Twitter.
Who Benefits The Most: Colin Farrell. It has to be weird being the hot young thing in Hollywood. If you're leading-man handsome they just throw you against the wall like spaghetti to see if you stick anywhere. You wind up in S.W.A.T. and dumb thrillers and then everyone says, "Oh, darn, you didn't turn into Tom Cruise circa 1985. You must be untalented." But the tide has turned for this guy, post-booze and post-sex tape. He's been really great in movie after movie lately--The New World, Cassandra's Dream, In Bruges, Crazy Heart--and shows no signs of stopping.
Christopher Doyle Alert: If you recognize that name then you know what I'm talking about. He's the cinematographer that shoots whatever he points his camera at as though it were the most beautiful place on Earth. He could make you envious of people who live in garbage dumps, or, like in this movie, create a somberly blue and green longing to go live in the freezing depths of an Irish cove.