The Water Diviner – Film Review

The Water Deviner credit waterdevinerfilm.au Russell Crowe - HeadStuff.org

I had never reviewed a film before going to the press screening of Russell Crowe’s new motion picture The Water Diviner in which he both stars and directs. Russell Crowe is the Australian star who first came to Hollywood’s attention in the French classic LA Confidential  and was originally born in Wellington, New Zealand but gained his Australian citizenship when he appeared in the soap opera Neighbours. Walking into the early morning screening, I was greeted by the slightly odd sight of a number of journalists sitting apart from each other. It looked like a special screening for lonely people in the same vein as a mother and toddler screening. I had no idea what to expect as the film began with an “inspired by true events” disclaimer. The film opens on the last day of the First World War on the island of Gallipoli which is something that definitely happened. We then cut to four years later and a scene in which Russell Crowe’s character Joshua Connor is searching for water in the dusty outback of Australia which plays like a Sunday afternoon version of the opening scene of There Will Be Blood.

It transpires that his three sons were killed in Gallipoli on the same day and after his wife commits suicide he goes to find their remains and bring them back to Australia to be buried alongside her. This all sounds very depressing so when he arrives in Turkey he forms a bond with a local boy who has excellent English and his attractive widowed mother played by former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko who also has excellent English. These must be the inspired events the disclaimer was going on about although there is nothing really inspired about the clichéd Mills and Boon style romance in which she initially dislikes him but then slowly warms to him over the course of the film. Connor is met with bureaucratic resistance from an English Officer who says “bloody” a few times and refuses to allow him to travel to Gallipoli but he goes anyway and is met by Australian and Turkish troops working together to identify as many soldiers as they can but it seems a monumental task as tens of thousands of soldiers died on the peninsula that one character describes as “one big grave”. As the film nears its conclusion there is an extended action sequence that is slightly at odds with the overall sombre tone of the rest of the film. Most likely this is another inspired element.

The film has a lot of good things going for it. The photography by Andrew Lesnie who shot the Lord of the Rings trilogy is strikingly beautiful throughout and there is solid support from Yilmuz Erdogan as Major Hasan, the Turkish Officer who bemoans the fact that they won the battle but lost the war and helps Connor on his quest to find his sons. It also deals with the aftermath of war on families and soldiers. Overall this is a well made and competently acted film that seems destined to be something your mother will eventually watch on Netflix.

The Water Diviner is out on April 3rd.

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