Movie Review: The Water Diviner (2014) Russell Crowe

Water Diviner still Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe’s directorial debut in this historical-fictional drama is formulaic but emotionally engaging and thoughtful

(Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers)

Russell Crowe playing the lead role while directing for the first time? Well, I wasn’t as surprised as seeing him murder the musical numbers in Les Miserables (2012). This isn’t what one would call a perfect directorial debut, but I felt that he’s done well enough to make this film into a watchable historical-fictional drama with valuable messages.

Set in 1919, the story follows Australian man Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) who travels to Turkey to search for his three sons who have presumably died in action four years ago at the Battle of Gallipoli. World War I may have ended a year ago, but the war in Turkey continues. It says “inspired by true events” during the opening but I later found out that none of the characters are real. The war and the history in play, however, are not fictional.

Water Diviner still jai courtney, Cem Yılmaz, Yılmaz Erdoğan

Crowe performs very well as the role of a sad and weary but strong-willed loving father role who’s persistently determined to bring whatever that’s left of his sons home to be rested beside their mother. However, the search never seems too difficult for him in the movie as he has unrealistically strong sense in locating things (apparently it’s because he’s a dowser, a.k.a. “water diviner”), and also, the very kind help of Major Hassan (Cem Yılmaz) and Sergeant Jemal (Yılmaz Erdoğan), who were the Ottoman Empire soldiers defending Gallipoli and might have been involved in the death of Joshua Connor’s sons. Despite being former enemies of the Allies, Major Hassan is the only person who shows compassion and empathy for Joshua when even military of the Allies are refusing to help him or to even permit him to visit Gallipoli.

All the main characters are affected by the war one way or another, and it is well conveyed in the film that moving on is the answer – a powerful theme of the story. The film certainly holds a very mature point of view on war, beliefs and cultural differences. One particular thought-provoking scene I really liked is where Joshua barges in to save a Turkish woman from getting hit by her fiance, but instead of getting thanked, the woman scolds him for doing what HE thinks is right.

Water Diviner still olga kurylenko russell crowe

When Joshua first arrive in Istanbul, he meets a young Turkish boy and his single mother Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) at the hotel that he stays at. Needless for me to say, I’m sure you too can predict that Joshua would bond well with the kid and eventually for the Ayshe in the end. Kurylenko, who’s actually French, does well with her role and it feels that she could’ve done a lot more if Ayshe was not only written to give Joshua a happy ending (no pun intended). Well, well, this supposed painful trip of Joshua’s turns out to be nothing but good stuff lined up for him, and I haven’t even mentioned the rest of it.

As a first-time director, it seems that all Crowe aimed to do was to ensure the film is thoroughly emotional enough for the sake of drama and that the script’s meaningful messages are all clearly delivered. Certain characters are either undeveloped or unexplored (like Joshua’s wife and Jai Courtney’s character Lieutenant Colonel Hughes), some scenes are overly cheesy and cringeworthy (characters smiling and laughing in slow motion to lazily convey bonding and happiness between characters), and the final act towards the end feels like a sudden change of pace, seemingly a rush that caused the rather unintentionally comical cliches.

Water Diviner movie meme Russell Crowe

In overall, The Water Diviner serves the symbolism of its title and is a decent adventure, although seemingly quick and lack of hardships, seeing how this man, who has lost everyone in his life, march on into unfamiliar territories in search of a closure to the painful tragedy.

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What I would’ve named the film: “Are All My Sons Dead? Noah”

Malaysia censorship: I didn’t notice any scene cut at the press screening held at GSC Mid Valley Megamall. There aren’t any profanity or even a kiss. There are some mildly graphic images of war but I highly doubt those would be required to be censored.

Second opinion: My girlfriend felt that the fatherly and brotherly love was very touching.

Verdict: If you like Russell Crowe and unrealistic but watchable dramas set during war, you won’t be disappointed by this one, and might even be surprised by its moral messages.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

The Water Diviner poster malaysiaCountry / Languages: Australia, Turkey, US / English, Turkish

Genre: Historical fictional drama
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director: Russell Crowe
Writers: Andrew Anastasios, Andrew Knight
Cast: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney

Malaysia Release Date: 29 January 2015
Rated: 18
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Production: Fear of God Films, Hopscotch Features

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