Film Review: The Water Diviner

It’s fair to say that the trailer for The Water Diviner didn’t really grip me. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that I didn’t really understand it. I couldn’t quite picture how the title fit the apparent story, and more so, how the story tied together from the brief on screen footage.

And then I heard an interview with Russell Crowe, the film’s star and director (making his behind the camera debut) in which he spoke with passion towards the project and with reviews giving it an slightly unhealthy but over all acceptable bill of health it seemed to slot into my life as a film to see but expect nothing from. Almost a chore to endure because I enjoy going to the movies rather than a film that I was consciously looking forward to.

Russell Crowe (Angry) - The Water Diviner

Having now seen the film, that original mindset may explain a lot as to why I have drawn the opinions and feelings I have towards the film. It’s left me feeling unsure as to whether I enjoyed it or not. Clear on how it made me feel but not on whether they are a good thing or not.

To me, The Water Diviner has a tone running the whole way through it that felt overly aggressive and arrogant. There were times when it even felt like it was actually doing me a favour by allowing me the privilege of its story. Pinning me up against a wall, demanding to know why I wasn’t enjoying it more and/or why I wasn’t feeling this or that at that exact moment in time.

And that’s left me feeling slightly uneasy around it. I never really relaxed into it. While I enjoyed parts of the story I just didn’t like the sensations that were building around them. I was always constantly on edge, waiting for it to explode in subconscious anger at me again.

I think this problem stems from Crowe though. You almost feel that to him, he’s physically leading the line on both sides of the camera. It’s his film and I can just imagine that the set is ruled by fear and almost an iron fist. And this sense of superiority and power oozes into his onscreen character. I kept seeing him as Maximus, his character from Gladiator at the start of the opening battle. Boisterous, strong and very much in charge of all those around. Fearless yet ultimately blinded by his own strength.

Russell Crowe - Gladiator

Once I’d accepted that the tone of the film, and it’s pivotal character, was unpleasant things did slightly improve. Firstly, the rest of the cast hold together a plot that is enjoyable but limp. There are holes and missteps a plenty, but somehow you accept them because the characters stumbling through them have just enough realism and humility to make it all believable. Whether from the apparent sides of good or bad. Olga Kurylenko and Dylan Georgiades especially, provide just enough warmth and charm to the tale to lift it up when needed and stop it from feeling truly heavy. Because as a story there is some weight to it. And while there were two moments of real emotional power, that really got under my skin, removed the unease I bore towards it, for most of the film, it’s plot is just overshadowed by its natural bullying tendencies.

Thankfully, The Water Diviner is not really slow as that would be the final nail in it’s coffin, but it is noticeably metronomic, using changes in sound and volume to impart pace rather than on any screen editing. I think that may be a conscious decision by Crowe though to essentially play it safe in terms of the amount of behind camera work he was taking on, and he just about gets away with it. The longer it went on the greater the desire to look at my watch, but was just entertaining enough to stop me from following through and actually rolling up my sleeve.

Ben Affleck (Directing)

I think as directorial debut’s go, Crowe can be proud of the film he’s produced. But for me, he’s brought too much of his personality, and apparent ego, into his style for the film to feel comfortable. It’s just too nervously on edge and when it comes to actors turned directors, it reminds me more of the films of Tommy Lee Jones than Ben Affleck. Technically acceptable and obviously created with experience, but just lacking that touch of natural talent that would take it to the next level.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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