While The Water Diviner opens on a title card claiming that it's based around true events, the film itself is only based on a single sentence found in a letter sent during the time period. This sentence was then expanded into over a hundred pages of sentences and BAM! The movie arrived. The Water Diviner follows the story of Connor (Russell Crowe), an Australian man who's purpose in life is lost after his three sons are killed in war, followed by his wife's suicide. Struck with despair, Connor travels to Gallipoli with the hopes that he will be able to find the bodies of his three sons and take them back to Australia where he will bury them alongside their mother.
The Water Diviner is the first film to be directed by Australian actor Russell Crowe, and he clearly has a knack for filmmaking. When he's not constantly singing in Les Miserables, Russell Crowe can really act. He's not just a brilliant performer, but now he's also a brilliant storyteller (even if the story isn't all that). Obviously taking inspiration and skills from the many brilliant directors he's worked with over the years, Crowe gives a solid effort both on the screen and off. When you work with directors such as Darren Aronofsky, Ridley Scott, Ron Howard etc. it wouldn't be all that surprising if you pick up a thing or two. Crowe most certainly does, giving us a directorial debut that's the start of what looks to be a sensational directing career.
The film isn't just made well either, it has an interesting perspective of war. It shows it in a horrifying and depressing way, not just for the Australians, but for the Turks too. It shows the effects of war on the families of soldiers, in particular the ways they handle with loss. While it's only the extremities that are shown, that doesn't make it any less unique. The war sequences, as mature as they are, aren't always perfect though, each scene being too long and more exploitative than anything else.
There's also a lack of emotion too, which is something much needed for a lot of the movie, the war scenes in particular. The film fails to connect with us as an audience, despite many tragic events taking place. There's a bunch of crying to be had, but none that really hits hard. Russell Crowe is in tears every second scene, but as I was sitting in my seat I couldn't help but feel rather awkward, sitting there watching him ball his eyes out for a cheap attempt at stirring some emotion in the audience. That's the one area where Crowe fails in his directing, but I'm sure he'll improve over time. Hopefully, anyway.
It's story is rather messy, which probably helped to distance the emotion. There's a story, sure, but it's never one thing. It's a constantly evolving story, and not in a good way. Every ten or so minutes sees a new goal for Crowe's character. At one point he's after his son's bodies, at another he's falling in love, the next minute sees him bonding with a child, the next sees him traveling in search of a war camp. It just goes on and on and on, leaving you wondering when it's all going to end.
This messy plotting also raised many questions about what the hell is actually going on. The Water Diviner, although made well, doesn't make a lot of sense. There's so many unanswered questions, the main one being how Russell Crowe managed to acquire some sort of magical ability to see into both the past and the future. He's constantly getting flashbacks and flash forwards of people he knows, mostly his sons, but they're memories he didn't attend to. He wasn't there and there's no possible way for him to know of the events.
Ignoring the nonsensicalness and messy plotting, to top it all off, The Water Diviner is just an incredibly bland movie. The set pieces look like a lot of hard work has been put into them, but it's hard work wasted for they're nothing exciting. The colour palette is mopey, the outback's looked better and the story is podgy. It's a film with a lot happening, but nothing exciting nor interesting. While I'm being harsh on this film it's not bad. In fact, I want people to go see it. I want people to go out of their way and pay money to see this movie, for it's the only way we're going to get more quality films from Australia. Go see The Water Diviner, that's all I'm asking, even if it's not the best movie currently out in cinemas.
To sum up, The Water Diviner is well made, featuring a solid effort from Crowe both in front and behind the camera, but it's a nonsensical and messy film that's just rather bland and uninteresting.
2 1/2 Stars