Despite its star power, “The Water Diviner” floated just under the radar in the U.S. Maybe the period film focused on Australian history does not appeal to Americans, but it is a halfway decent first feature for Russell Crowe as director.
The film follows the aftermath of the tragic battle at Gallipoli as soldiers’ families mourn in both Australia and Turkey. In an attempt to comfort his wife’s spirit, water diviner Connor (Russell Crowe) makes the journey from Australia to Gallipoli to find the bodies of his three sons, declared dead at the infamously dreadful battle site. Met with red tape from the military clearing the battlegrounds for proper burials and a dislike from the locals, Connor refuses to give up searching for his sons. Visions inspire his quest while he finds assistance at a boarding house from the owner’s child, Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), despite his mother’s (Olga Kurylenko) disapproval. Surprisingly, he also receives assistance from a Turkish military leader (Yilmaz Erdogan), a man he blames for his sons’ deaths.
Though the main character is not a religious man, the film exudes spirituality; there is a greater power giving Connor dreams of his sons and guiding his life. The film smartly chooses not to explain his connection to the earth, allowing viewers to interpret their own meaning.
“The Water Diviner” struggles most with its script; pointless adrenaline and hints of romance water down the stronger tale of Connor’s quest. The film attempts to dabble in all genres and connect with all viewers, but there is too much going on. At its core, “The Water Diviner” tells a tale of a father’s journey for closure, but it tries too hard to be an action movie with inane adrenaline caused by coincidental timing and punches of plot absurdity (including a silly chase out of his hotel though Connor has been warned days previous to the exact time authorities will arrive). The story relies too much on last minute or chance events to be taken too seriously.
Though the heart of “The Water Diviner” centers on family, this film is not for younger children. The war fragments feature gruesome images, mostly of one particular soldier’s shot-off face. Other than the disturbing images, “The Water Diviner” features warm morals of acceptance and forgiveness while promoting this peace rather than the horror of war, making the movie appropriate for families with teenaged or possibly preteen children.
Driven by the poor script, “The Water Diviner” will not be memorable, especially in the ambivalent North American market hesitant of foreign historical films. Ukrainian Kurylenko is wasted in the film as a token love interest and is unbelievable as Turkish. However, Crowe does what he does best as a wandering knight righting wrongs and keeps a brisk pace for his film. This stepping stone shows Crowe’s potential behind the camera if nothing else, obviously influenced by his work with Ridley Scott and Ron Howard, directors who know how to connect emotion and adrenaline.
Rating for “The Water Diviner:” C+
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“The Water Diviner” is no longer playing in Columbus.