Russell Crowe’s latest offering comes on the cusp of the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing. Is ‘The Water Diviner’ a fitting tribute, or an embarrassing hash?
Unfortunately it’s somewhere in between. Russell Crowe both stars and directs, and makes a noble effort in both. He plays Mr Connor, an Australian farmer with a talent for finding water underground, and whose three sons were all lost at Gallipoli. After the suicide of his wife, Connor travels to Gallipoli, despite military obstacles, to search for the bodies of his sons. Along the way he meets Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and her son, and Hasan (Yilman Erdogan) who helps him look for his sons. Connor never gives up hope, and that’s possibly the message behind the film.
One thing you get from ‘The Water Diviner’ is that it’s very careful in the levels of respect it pays. For example, it’s very respectful towards the Turkish and Islam, and emphasises that while we lost thousands at Gallipoli, the Turks lost even more. It’s respectful towards the trauma suffered by those touched by conflict. But it’s not kind at all towards elements of government, the Catholic Church, and some authority figures.
Performances from the cast are overall very good. Crowe does a quite decent job, but it isn’t his best work. Kurylenko and Erdogan are great, and Jai Courtney isn’t bad either. However, there’s nothing striking or particularly special about any of the acting here apart from Dylan Georgiades, as Orhan, Ayshe’s son. He’s clearly having a lot of fun.
The production value isn’t exactly top-notch, with some obviously recycled sets, and a sense of cheapness overall. And while the score needs polish, it’s not offensive. The average viewer should be too caught up in the story to notice these details. The story itself might be a tad predictable, but that doesn't detract from it.
A surprising feature of ‘The Water Diviner’ is the gut-wrenching depiction of trench warfare. If you’ve a sensitivity to blood and violence, cover your eyes during those parts. The film doesn’t pull any punches with missing limbs, blood loss, and long, slow, harrowing deaths.
For what ‘The Water Diviner’ lacks in refinement, it makes up for in heart, and is well worth a look.