Synopsis: Academy Award winner Russell Crowe (Gladiator) makes his directorial debut on The Water Diviner, an epic and inspiring tale of one man’s life-changing journey of discovery. Crowe also stars in the film as Australian farmer Joshua Connor, who, four years after the bloody Battle of Gallipoli, risks his own life to search for his three beloved sons, who never returned home from the war. Arriving in Istanbul, he is thrust into a vastly different world, where he encounters others who have suffered their own terrible losses in the conflict: Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), a strikingly beautiful but guarded hotelier raising a child alone; her young, spirited son, Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), who finds a friend in Connor; and Major Hasan (Yilmaz ErdoÄan), a Turkish officer who fought against Connor’s boys…and who now may be this desperately determined father’s only hope. With seemingly insurmountable obstacles in his path, Connor embarks on an emotionally charged and dangerous trek across the battle-scarred Turkish landscape to find the truth and, perhaps, his own peace.
Release Date: April 24, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Russell Crowe is an actor, some would say he’s a singer, and now he’s a director. With The Water Diviner, Crowe is the latest Oscar-winning actor to throw his name into the directing pool, while simultaneously using his own star power to fuel the release. Pulling double duty as actor/director is seen largely as a major challenge, and for The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe unequivocally succeeds. He delivers a compelling drama that features terrific acting and solid filmmaking, even if things do get a little overly saccharine by the end.
At its core, The Water Diviner is a story about a father trying to find peace for his missing sons. Joshua Connor (Crowe) is an Australian farmer who has a particular talent for finding water in the most barren of environments. Sure, he has some tools for his trade, but it’s really Connor’s intuition that has helped him find success all these years. However, once Joshua’s sons go missing – presumed dead – during World War I’s Battle of Gallipoli, he sets off on a quest to recover their bodies and bring them home. Along the way, Joshua Connor develops a few friendships, most notably with innkeeper Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and her son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades). Without his own family around, Connor begins to develop a strong bond with Ayshe and Orhan, despite the former’s reservations about his Australian nationality. And yes, eventually that friendship gives way to romance because, at its heart, The Water Diviner is an uplifting film, even if it features some pretty horrific war scenes.
That juxtaposition, however, gives The Water Diviner a strong foundation from which to work. Seeing a unique, and oftentimes overlooked, part of World War I is fascinating in its own right, but Crowe grounds the film and gives it an emotional context. His singular performance is that of a man who has prepared himself for the worst, but still keeps an upbeat spirit. Make no mistake, the film features some extremely somber subject material, but Crowe is charming enough to make sure The Water Diviner is not a complete downer.
Across the board, in fact, the film has some truly memorable characters that, despite taking up only a small portion of the screen time, do well to make an impact. Crowe’s Joshua Connor is without question the emotional center, and the actor/director carries the role admirably, but Kurylenko and Georgiades are equally as strong in the film. Georgiades teeters that line between unbearably cute and annoying in such a way that it’s hard not to love his scenes with Crowe. And special recognition is due Ryan Corr, who brings heartbreaking intensity to the role of Joshua’s eldest son Arthur. As we disover how Connor’s three sons fared in the Battle of Gallipoli it’s both harrowing and informative, watching as Joshua tries to “divine” their fate while the actual battle scenes flash on-screen.
It’s in that divination, however, and the film’s more fantastical concepts that The Water Diviner starts to tread some overly saccharine and hokey territory. The act of water divining is based on pure intuition, but finding one’s missing sons among thousands of dead in a massive battlefield is a little harder to believe. It makes for great dramatic fodder, but stretches credulity a little too thin. Then, when Connor starts having dreams about his sons, which we eventually learn are true, it takes things too far. For that matter, the love story between Joshua and Ayshe is hard to swallow. We spend too much time developing that relationship when it’s the least fascinating aspect of the film and is there purely to broaden The Water Diviner‘s appeal.
In the end, though, The Water Diviner succeeds in delivering strong drama backed by historical context. Russell Crowe is great as both director and actor, solidifying his cast and bringing an emotional gravitas to the proceedings. It’s a shame the film finds a little too much time for melodrama, because outside of that The Water Diviner is a very well made film.
While The Water Diviner doesn’t have any particularly noteworthy qualities about its filmmaking, Russell Crowe acquits himself well behind the camera. His strengths as an actor certainly helped bring out the best qualities of his cast, who are exceptional in the film. Many of them are lesser-known names, some of them completely unheard of actors, but they all shine.
However, when it comes to restraint, Crowe struggles to keep The Water Diviner focused. There’s a lot going on in the film, to the point that it’s oftentimes hard to find a strong through line. You get a general sense of the story, but the romance bogs it down. Furthermore, what was once compelling drama eventually gives way to hokey happenstance, as The Water Diviner truly lives up to its name. On its face, the film is perfectly enjoyable, but it would have been nice to see Crowe step in and edit a few of his creative choices. Focusing the film down may have served to make it tighter.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Russell Crowe
- Screenwriter(s): Andrew KnightAndrew Anastosios
- Cast: Russell Crowe (Connor)Olga Kurylenko (Ayshe)Jai Courtney (Lt. Colonel Hughes) Dylan Georgiades (Orhan)Steve Bastoni (Omer)Isabel Lucas (Natalia)
- Editor(s): Matt Villa
- Cinematographer: Andrew Lesnie
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: David Hirschfelder
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: