4 out of 5 stars
Joshua Conner (Russell Crowe) is an Australian farmer who has an uncanny knack for finding water in desolate places. In the story of The Water Diviner , he is a man on a different type of quest. Conner is a father on a mission to find his sons. The boys had followed in the path of many Australian young men of that era and had gone off to fight on the shores of Gallipoli in World War I. To the best of his knowledge, his three sons were dead and Connor had promised his wife to bury them in the consecrated soil of Australia. Conner goes to Turkey to search for his boys and comes in contact with Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), who manages the hotel that he will stay in throughout his search. Ayshe and her son, Orhan (Dylan Georgiades) help Conner in understanding the nuances and beauty of this exceptionally foreign culture. Many challenges confront him as he works through the bureaucracy of the British military, the Turkish culture and the emotions surrounding the loss of his sons. Throughout his experience, he begins to see that his loss is measured against all of the tragedies of war, those that occurred to other Australians and especially to the Turkish people. Through a series of events surrounding his search, he comes in contact with the leader of the Turkish forces, Major Hasan or better known as the Assassin (Yilmaz Erdogan). Their relationship is adversarial at first, but they soon become friends on this journey of finding the souls buried in the ground of the battleground. In the end, they help each other in finding what they seek in the wasteland of Gallipoli and in their own hearts.
Being Russell Crowe's first directorial effort, there was an obvious wisdom of staying close to his homeland and telling a story that is close to the heart of Australians. It is a film that depicts the tragedies of war, but at the heart of the story is a man's love for his family and his desire to find them. This is a universal tale that transcends cultural heritage. Anyone who sees this film can connect with the characters, regardless of the awareness of the historical components involved. The story is based on a novel that relates to actual events following the war. Crowe does an admirable job of directing the storyline and delving into the heart of the human condition. As an actor, he manages to draw us into the story and get great performances out of his cast. These are the best works for many the film, including Olga Kurylenko, Ryan Corr (Not Suitable for Children) and Jai Courtney (Divergent, Jack Reacher), but Crowe's performance was the one to take into consideration. The storyline contains a quest and in it he seems to find himself. He utilises the beautiful canvas of the Australian and Turkish landscapes and manages to bring forth a wonderful artistic work of a father's love and forgiveness. Crowe travels through the story and throughout his search for his sons and he comes to realise that war has victims on many fronts. He should be commended for his maiden directorial venture, but needs to be recognised for finding the Russell Crowe that most came to love throughout his career in films like Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind.
The Water Diviner is a wartime film and there are gruesome battle scenes, but they are necessary for the sake of the story. These should not deter people from going to see this film. The over use of the Gallipoli tale can become wearisome at times, but it is merely the backdrop for a wonderful film. There are obvious challenges and stretches in believability throughout the film, but the overarching narrative of this man's love for his family will grab the hearts of all and make up for any weaknesses in the story. The deeper considerations of a man wrestling with loss and his anger with God helps to bring forth the authenticity of the cinematic experience. He does not come to terms with this battle in the film, but his unrelenting drive to find his sons has many Biblical underpinnings. One of the key themes of the Bible is the relentless pursuit that God the Father has for mankind. In studying this theme in more detail helps to understand the hearts of mankind and a father's love for his family, regardless of the difficulty of the experiences of life. On its own, this is a beautiful story of a father searching for his sons, but the value of the film is found in the multiple layers of the story which brings forth a rich cinematic experience.
Call me sentimental, but I loved this film. It was not a perfect film, but Crowe managed to find himself in the making of this film. The man that grabbed our attention in Gladiator has come back and found himself in this endearing Australian tale. It may only grab the attention of Australians, but he manages to get the best out of all of cast involved and direct a fine film of a father's love and hope.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
- Why does the Bible say about fathers and sons? (Matthew 3:17, John 5:19)
- Where can true hope be found? (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:12)
- What is the value of forgiveness? (Matthew 6:15, Mark 11:25, Ephesians 4:32)