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The Water Diviner - DVD Review

The Water Diviner

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

RUSSELL Crowe’s directorial debut is a hugely ambitious historical epic that achieves many of its aims in spite of its flaws.

An unapologetically anti-war movie, it’s also steadfastly old fashioned in many ways yet also astute and brave enough to portray war for the complex beast that it is.

And while it’s easy to find fault with some of the more melodramatic elements of Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios’ screenplay, The Water Diviner deserves credit for making you think while keeping you engaged on an emotional level.

Crowe also takes the lead role as Connor, a grieving father who has lost all three of his sons to the battlefield of Gallipoli. After another tragedy befalls him, he resolves to make good on a promise and travel to Turkey to find and reclaim his sons’ bodies so that he can bring them home and give them a proper burial.

His ensuing journey brings him into contact with a similarly grieving Turkish mother (Olga Kurylenko) and her young son (Dylan Georgiades), as well as the Turkish military leader, Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan), who helped to repel the Anzac offensive. But while both relationships prove initially tense, Connor soon finds his sympathies divided as he is forced to look at things from a different perspective.

Having worked with some of the great directors (from Ridley Scott to Ron Howard and Peter Weir), Crowe has obviously developed a keen eye for what makes a good shot and his film is often beautiful to look at, even evoking the memory of David Lean with one hazy shot.

But when it comes to tone he’s a little more uneven, often veering into mawkish sentiment when dealing with the romantic element or plot contrivances that don’t always feel convincing, particularly late on.

His film is at its sharpest when dealing with the effects of war and its emotional cost to both sides. One sequence, in particular, haunts in the way that it takes viewers onto the battlefield post-slaughter, as the remnants of life ebb away, while his sensitivity to both sides is as surprising as it is true. Crowe has clearly done his research and has worked hard to bring a balance that feels welcome.

He also draws fine performances from himself, Kurylenko, Jai Courtney (as a sympathetic Anzac officer) and Georgiades (cheeky but endearing), but especially from Erdogan, whose portrayal of Hasan is another of the film’s unexpected highlights.

As flawed as The Water Diviner undoubtedly is at times, you can’t help but respect much of what it is trying to do, or feel drawn to its central character’s journey. For those reasons alone, it has to rate as a personal success for Crowe and a mostly involving cinematic journey.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 111mins
UK Blu-ray & DVD Release: August 10, 2015