The Water Diviner

Russell Crowe's directorial début is rudderless & simplistic, even if it boasts of good production values.

Russell Crowe, the Oscar-winning Australian actor, makes his feature film directorial debut with The Water Diviner. Though an ambitious effort, Crowe needn’t hurry into changing professions anytime soon. Unlike his contemporaries Mel Gibson , Ben Affleck or even George Clooney, Crowe shows little flair for story-telling in form or style. The Water Diviner is simplistic; it has a banal quality that can’t be rescued by Russell Crowe the actor nor the movie’s wonderful production.

Set in the years 1915-16, Crowe plays Conner, an Australian water-diviner – he can find the location of underground water in his arid homeland using just two sticks. All three of his sons were soldiers for the Australian army, presumed killed in battle at Gallipoli, Turkey. After losing his wife to suicide, Conner travels to Turkey to look for his sons’ remains so he can bring them back and bury them next to his wife. On his journey, he is assisted and cared for by a Turkish army general and a Turkish widow.

The movie starts with Crowe’s character looking for water and digging a well, successfully. The scene helps to establish the title of the movie, but does little else since nothing established in the scene is referred to ever again. Many such throwaway sequences rob the movie of the story it tries to tell: the quest of a father to find his sons. The coincidences and conveniences pile up, further aiding the emotional disconnect. Conner is even shown to visualize the where and how of his children’s death, something left unexplained and unexplored. Similarly, we never learn why the Turkish general assists him, the enemy! Through it all, Crowe the actor is resonant and compelling – credit to the wonderful actor that he is. But his supporting actors don’t make things easy either: Olga Kurylenko plays the local supermarket version of a Turkish Delight. You know, the ones that are neither made in Turkey nor are half as good as the real thing.

The Water Diviner, though, boasts excellent production. Lensed by Andrew Lesnie (Lord of the Rings trilogy, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), the movie is wonderful to look at, especially the landscapes of Turkey and the colourful bazaars of Istanbul. But any amount of polish cannot add sparkle to a movie that has been dulled by a loose script and indifferent direction.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.