Release Date: April 24, 2015
Director: Russell Crowe
Writer: Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios
Cast: Jai Courtney, Isabel Lucas, Olga Kurylenko, Russell Crowe, Megan Gale, Damon Herriman, Ryan Corr, Jacqueline McKenzie, Cem Yilmaz, Yilmaz Erdogan, Deniz Akdeniz, Dylan Georgiades, Dan Wyllie, Michael Dorman, Robert Mammone, Christopher Sommers, Mert Firat
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 111 minutes
Production Company: Fear of God Films, Hopscotch Features, RatPac Entertainment, Seven Group Holdings, Seven West Meida, Universal Pictures
Genre: Drama, War
Language: English, Turkish, Greek, Russian
Country: Australia, Turkey, USA
Once a memory is created it’s considered a true story, and there are an infinite number of stories throughout the ages. Some may be more interesting and grander than others, but each holds its own place in history. What makes one true event more relevant than others? There isn’t a scalable answer to that question, and it depends on the story teller.
The Water Diviner tells a true story, or one that’s based on historical events. With that event being World War I, the “based on true events” holds weight. Though a majority of the story could or couldn’t have the same stance, and seems rather convenient to lay out an impactful third out. It has feel-good moments while it tries to be epic. The story takes the longest time to find its point but once it does, the payoff is questionable.
One aspect that’s questionable is the link between the two worlds used to tell the story. One comprises Russell Crowe’s character Connor living out his daily routines, while the other attempts to paint a picture of history. This picture takes too long to come into the frame. A member of the audience shouldn’t have to memorize historical dates and landmarks to put the film together coherently. The interplay between the two worlds is not cohesive enough for the film to flow naturally, and it is rather disturbing. I don’t know what I’m watching or why it’s important, especially with random cuts back to Connor digging for water wells. It’s an honorable profession, and it appears as though Connor is proficient at his job. But the interest starts to fade when the point of these scenes is well beyond the horizon.
Bringing things back for a second, one thing that’s notable is the character moments. They’re funny and lift the mood at times when the film is low. When I say low, I mean the lack of better effort at storytelling. Though when these moments came, I laughed, as did the theatre around me. Another triumph is Crowe’s performance. It’s not groundbreaking but appreciable. The love that he has for his boys is apparent, but also brief. I believe him when he is happy and feel for him when he is sad. It is enough to get us through his journey of desperate intentions most fathers would identify with.
As I stated earlier, the way the story is told seems like a checklist rather than an organic flow. Once the two sides of the story meet, the merit of one is completely lost. Or, I realize, it was never found in the first place. We spend too much time with war generals of a specific battle ground, and when their days come in contact with Connor’s journey, I wonder why we spent so much time with them. They don’t stand out and the importance of their screen time is nonexistent.
The movie would’ve been much better if more time was spent with Connor and his three boys. If we could see their relationship at home and share great stories from the boys’ childhood and young adulthood. Instead, we get the aftermath of their passing, and one accident that they are assumed to survive. Due to the lack of development here, the nature of Connor’s journey to find his boys in the rubble of war grounds doesn’t hit home like it should.
Any man who goes on such a needle in a haystack search for loved ones demands respect. There are countless names and bodies that are lost on the war grounds, and they may never find peace or closure. Picking one incident out of thousands is fine, but it needs to be told in such a way that it stands out. If it stands out as the “every day black bird” on your telephone pole it does not do justice. The film spends too much time with characters of no importance, and with those you don’t care about or connect with. Then, it doesn’t spend enough time with the characters that serve as the whole purpose of the film. In moments of despair, daydreams are used to fill the gaps in the said story, and a convenient action scene is thrown in towards the end right as the revelation ends.