JDIFF Review – The Water Diviner

After the death of his wife, Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) an Australian water diviner, travels to Turkey to find out what happened to his three sons who, it is presumed, died in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915.

The Water Diviner is Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, but feels as though it is directed by a steady and seasoned hand. There is an old feel about the film, as though it was created in a different era, but Crowe takes a tale that could easily be over-sentimentalised, and makes it his own.

Crowe himself is strong in the leading role, as a heartbroken yet stubborn man who will do anything it takes to find the truth. There is also an element of otherworldliness to the character; this is a man who divines for a water, so surely is in tune with the rhythms of the earth. Olga Kurylenko is surprisingly stiff and uneasy in a role that she should be able to with her eyes closed. Yes, she is beautiful on screen, but her character Ayshe is lacking a spark and a feel of naturalism. Dylan Georgiades, as the confident and cheeky Orhan, breathes innocence and fun into a film that could easily have been bogged down with grief and despair. The rest of the cast is made up of Isabel Lucas, Jai Courtney, Damon Herriman, Jacqueline McKenzie, Cem Yilmaz and Yilmaz Erdogan.

The story, written by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios is based on true events from World War I, but by throwing a grieving father into Turkey, which is still war torn and distrustful of strangers, creates the tale of natural enemies becoming friends, and calls up the old idea hat books should certainly not be judged by their covers. There are moments, however, where everything is tied up in neat little bows; bows that feel entirely too contrived, cheesy and convenient. This in turn feels like a disservice to the characters.

As director, Russell Crowe does his job confidently and capably, capturing the look and feel of Istanbul in the aftermath of World War I, and coaxing steady performances from his actors – with the exception of Kurylenko. Emotional and affecting moments are allowed the land gently and linger, while there is enough warmth and heart to keep the audience fortified against the scenes of war. There is a delicate balance here, one that Crowe just about manages to strike.

In all, The Water Diviner is a romantic, sweet and engaging tale, which errs on the side of cheesy from time to time. Crowe gives his best performance in many a year, but is let down by Kurylenko, who feels out of place and uncomfortable on screen. As well as this, everything feels a little convenient in the end, but there is a warm and affecting heart at the centre of The Water Diviner, even if it takes a while to find it.

Rating: 3/5

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