Russell Crowe could not have chosen a more complex subject and vastly scoped epic for his directorial debut with The Water Diviner. Oh yeah, the Oscar winner also stars.
As teased in The Water Diviner trailer, Crowe plays Connor, an Australian farmer who has a gift -- he can find water below the land in an area that hasn’t seen rainfall in years. It’s the early 1900s and he is the father of three sons who, inspired by duty to king and country, enlist in World War I and head off to Gallipoli to fight the Turks in one of the earliest and bloodiest battles in the whole war.
When all three sons don’t return from the war, his wife is devastated and their lives are supremely empty. As his wife says, “You can find water but you can’t find your sons!” That is the haunting reality of daily life for Connor. So, he heads off to Turkey to find his sons. It’s been four years since the war ended, but his battle has just begun.
Once in Turkey, complications to his efforts abound. There are military rules. There are societal challenges in a culture that is having issues with their British “occupiers.” But Connor is determined and finds himself in the war zone where he is aided by Jai Courtney’s military man and a Turkish soldier, Major Hasan (an astounding Yilmaz Erdogan) who are, ironically, scouring the Gallipoli battlefield trying to identify all the dead.
There’s a nice supporting story that involves Connor’s stay at a local hotel in Turkey that finds him developing a relationship with a little boy and his mother (Olga Kurylenko) and the complications that his presence causes with her, her family and the Turkish culture as a whole. It’s a nice distraction from the sadness of war that all feel in this world. And it is largely given equal time onscreen as the father’s search for his son by Crowe in his directorial debut.
Don’t get us wrong, the emotional crux of this tale is still about a father and his search for his sons. There are even wider scopes that the Gladiator star could have tackled in this complicated historical mix. There’s the Turkish genocide of Armenians. There’s the Turkish mass killing of Greeks (who in Crowe’s film are seen as invaders). But, we feel that The Water Diviner is about solely one man’s search for closure. Connor is searching for his sons. It had to be a minefield for Crowe to try to tell this story with all of his complicated and deeply emotionally raw layers for so many culture and peoples.
Our The Water Diviner review finds that Crowe does a solid enough job, even if some of what happens he expects his audience to just take for granted -- like how his ability to find water in a desert would translate to finding his dead sons in a decimated battlefield. The film is gorgeous. It is also quite emotional. We actually are eager to see what Crowe, the filmmaker, does next.