“The Water Diviner” (releasing in April in USA) is the directorial debut of Russell Crowe, and he directs and stars in a fine period war drama set directly after World War I.
The premise of the story, supposedly inspired by real events, shows an Australian man travelling to Turkey after to find his three sons who were killed in the Battle of Gallipoli.
Crowed weaves some fine storytelling and some beautiful cinematography to bring to life both Australia and chaotic Turkey at the end of WWI as the Ottoman Empire is being carved up on all sides.
There’s a lot of great performances, including Olga Kurylenko who plays the beautiful hotel hostess where Crowe’s character stays in Istanbul during his trip. The little boy playing Olga’s son is simply adorable, and he develops a tender and believable relationship with Crowe’s character.
There are intense and vivid war scenes which rightfully illustrate the barbarity of Gallipoli. The story itself leans towards the sentimental and works towards an ending where peace can be found – or at least as much peace and resolution possible within these difficult set of circumstances.
The weaknesses of the script come from the title itself. At the beginning, Crowe’s character uses the divining rods to locate water on the Australian prairie, but a lot about his powers of perception are too underplayed and unclear once he is trying to find the bodies on the peninsula in Turkey. He someone just knows where they are, and there is another rather ridiculous revelation which comes through a dream. I won’t play spoiler here. But these two weaken the plot and especially weaken the title of the movie which implies that he has some power to discover things – but it’s never explained let alone explored.
But overall, these are minor criticism. “The Water Diviner” is a first-rate Australian production which I recommend.