An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.
Russell Crowe’s first venture behind the camera is an earnest attempt to tell a tragic story about soldier’s lost during the first World War, let down by an ill judged romantic subplot. ‘The Water Diviner’ is a solid war film focusing on Joshua Connor (Crowe), a father who sets off to find out what happened to his sons to fulfil a dying wish from his wife. Joshua was away from home locating and digging a well in a search for water (hence the film’s title) and when he returns years later, he discovers his three sons had all set off to fight in the war, with all presumed dead after fighting at the Battle of Gallipoli. Connor’s travels take him to Turkey, where he stays in a hotel run by the recently widowed Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) whilst he tries to gather information from the British consul and establish a way to travel to Gallipoli (which was restricted at this point).
You can sense an audible groan when Joshua arrives at the hotel and meets Ayshe, with the impending romantic plot both entirely expected and completely unnecessary. Kurylenko does what she can with a thankless role, but the subplot ultimately feels tacked on for the sake of fleshing out the runtime, and to give Joshua someone to share his grief with. It’s the kind of story that a better film would have steered clear off, or at the least avoided such a clichéd and frankly boring approach. Besides this disappointment, the film is mostly strong and the themes of love, loss and grief are well explored and developed. It’s been easy to forget just how magnetic a screen presence Crowe can be amidst some of the poorer films he’s appeared in off late, and his performance is excellent here. As Joshua, he always gives the sense of a man carrying a huge weight on his shoulders, with his quiet determination shining through powerfully. Out of the supporting cast, Yılmaz Erdoğan is the standout as a Turkish major dealing with his own side of the tragedy of war.
Crowe’s direction is solid throughout, although the action sequences don’t really click into gear, and he manages to create a film that pays tribute to those that lost their lives at Gallipoli whilst crafting a solid and occasionally moving story of his own. It’s always difficult to create an outstanding war film these days given the great competition, and ultimately ‘The Water Diviner’ doesn’t resonate as powerfully as better films have about the same subject. Crowe’s attempt is well intentioned and well created, but unfortunately ‘The Water Diviner’ is likely to be as forgotten as the soldiers of its subject matter were.
Directed By: Russell Crowe
Starring: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yılmaz Erdoğan, Cem Yılmaz, Jai Courtney, Ryan Corr, Jacqueline McKenzie, Dylan Georgiades, Damon Herriman and Robert Mammone