Water Diviner, The (2015)

Review #1,166

Director:  Russell Crowe
Cast:  Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney, Yilmaz Erdogan
Plot:  An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.

Genre:  Drama / War
Awards:  -
Runtime:  111min
Rating:  NC16 for war violence including some disturbing images.
International Sales:  Mister Smith Entertainment
Singapore Distributor:  Shaw Organisation

As a passion project for Russell Crowe, you can't fault his enthusiasm for making this picture.  It is his directorial debut, shot on location in Australia and Turkey, and featuring himself in the starring role as an Australian father who loses his sons to WWI in Turkey in the Battle of Gallipoli. 

Very few contemporary films still revolve around the now century-old first world war, but The Water Diviner proves that no battle is ever too old to be put up on the big screen.  And no story about family and peace is ever too kitschy to be retold, if it is well-meaning. 

Crowe's film functions as both a drama and a war film, but it is a dramatic film first, and a war film second.  The Battle of Gallipoli is briefly recreated, though it is not particularly impressive, probably because of budgetary concerns. 

But to be fair, it is not integral to the narrative insofar as the story of the three brothers in war is being told.  The flaw is that flashbacks to the horrors of the battle are played out a few times too many, and might appear to be more distracting than narrative-serving. 

Crowe's character shapes up to be someone who would do all he can to bring his boys home for an honourable burial.  After all, he manages to find groundwater by digging a makeshift well in the arid Australian wasteland, and many, many years ago, located his children in a sandstorm and protected them with a cloth. 

He seems to be blessed with some mystical power, as if his bond with his children exists not just through memory, but metaphysically.  This is where The Water Diviner doesn't convince enough, with the handling of tone between realism and fabulism problematic

It still makes a half-decent viewing though, if you can sit through its conventional storytelling, and just-okay performances.  The cinematography by the late Andrew Lesnie (The Lord of the Rings, 2001 - 2003) is excellent, and there are striking images to behold in the film. 

It is also a film with a message of reconciliation and peace, and for better or worse, The Water Diviner does sometimes feel like a more adult-oriented "Disney" movie, with the requisite saccharine closure, and elements of wonderment.  I'm sure Crowe's film is well-intentioned, but ultimately its execution while heartfelt doesn't quite stirs the soul as it should for a movie that is striving for scale and scope.

Verdict:  Crowe’s directorial debut leverages on the Battle of Gallipoli of WWI to tell a heartfelt if conventional story of family and peace.


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