“He is the only father who came looking.”  The Water Diviner opens this Friday.

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The Water Diviner, starring Russell Crowe, is a story about a father, Joshua Connor, who leaves Australia in search of his sons who went missing in Turkey during World War I.  Connor’s wife commits suicide from her overwhelming grief, causing Connor to flee to Australia to track down his sons.  He arrives in Istanbul and settles down in a hotel as he tries to find any information on his missing sons.  Connor eventually makes his way to the Gallipoli peninsula where he meets an Australian lieutenant and a Turkish major who, despite their rivalry, agree to help him recover his sons.

This film is also Crowe’s directorial debut, and while it’s not a masterpiece, the story is clear and executed well.  Crowe uses very common directorial choices that are technically fine, but not incredibly inventive artistically.  Sweeping landscape shots at sunrise or sunset serve as a transition between scenes, images of his sons in battle cloud Connor’s mind, and overdramatic music begins to play at the most convenient moments.  The film is predictable in this way, aesthetically appealing and entertaining, but predictable.


Where Crowe does get inventive, however, is in the details, though possibly to his detriment.  The Water Diviner contains one too many subplots, creating a film that becomes just a bit too busy and errs on the side of melodrama.  Connor’s “will they or won’t they” romance with Ayshe, the hotel manager (Olga Kurylenko), Ayshe’s missing husband and her abusive brother-in-law who tries to force her into marriage, Connor’s budding “Indiana Jones” type friendship with Ayshe’s son—these elements, standing alone, are great devices to further the plot and develop backstory, but, when combined, they make for an overwhelming story in terms of content and plot.

The Water Diviner contains some very solid acting from its entire ensemble, especially from Russell Crowe.  While his directorial choices tended to be a bit scattered, his acting is simple and stoic.  He goes through a journey—the death of his wife and two sons, the recovery of one of his sons, a new romance, several fight scenes—but he manages to be consistent while dealing with many differing circumstances.   Kurylenko as Ayshe, Dylan Georgiades as Ayshe’s son Orhan, Yilmaz Erdogan as Turkish Major Hasan, and Ryan Corr as Connor’s son Arthur are clear standouts among a strong cast, though the conventional writing is not giving them very much to work with.  Since every character has a monologue and snappy one-liners, almost all subtext is eliminated.

Overall, Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner is an entertaining, historical war film that explores that nature of conflict, camaraderie, and how far one father will go to ensure that his sons are not lost to the sea of the unnamed.