Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: The Water Diviner

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Russell Crowe's directorial debut, "The Water Diviner," falls into a few of the traps of first time directors and occasionally relies on cliches, but the film is an overall impressive filmmaking debut.

Set just after the end of World War I, the apparently true story follows the tale of a farmer (Crowe) who lost his three sons on the same day during the battle of Gallipoli and, this is not a spoiler, his wife to suicide.

Determined to bring his boys home to bury alongside their mother, Crowe's Joshua Connor travels to Turkey, where he is mostly met by British bureaucracy and indifference before being aided by a former Turkish general who led troops during the infamously brutal battle.

And since this is an historical epic, there's a cute little Turkish boy with a beautiful - and, of course, single - mother (Olga Kurylenko) who runs the inn where Connor stays. The potential romance between Connor and Ayshe (Kurylenko) is not overplayed, but the fact that it's there at all seems a bit out of place, considering the nature of the Australian man's quest.

Aside from this relationship, the filmmakers occasionally overly dramatize sequences that could have, perhaps, been better told through subtlety. Those grips aside, "The Water Diviner" offers a lot to praise. Crowe is, as always, impressive in front of the camera, but he obviously has talents behind it as well.

The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie is often gorgeous and, occasionally, stunning. And despite some melodrama relating to hostilities between the Greeks and Turks - especially a scene during which Connor prevents an execution - the film is fairly suspenseful and moving when it needs to be.

This is Crowe's first time behind the camera and I hope he takes another shot at it. Although not without its flaws, "The Water Diviner" is a solid wartime drama that obviously feels as if it were a personal project for the actor-director. I already knew of Crowe's abilities as a thespian, but his talents are clearly not limited to the realm of acting.

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