At The Movies: Crowe’s Convoluted Vanity Project

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Water Diviner 1

Russell Crowe in ‘The Water Diviner’.

‘The Water Diviner’

by John Lyons 

‘THE Water Diviner’ marks the directorial debut of Russell Crowe, an actor who, similar to the likes of Clint Eastwood, fancies himself working both in front of the camera and behind it at the same time.

Crowe stars as Joshua Connor, an Australian man embarking on a journey to Turkey after World War I in order to find the graves of his three sons who perished in the war.

Connor hopes to bring his sons’ remains home so that he can give them a proper burial beside his late wife.

Crowe is normally a very good actor, but as he proves time and time again in this film, he is not a storyteller.

He can make a bunch of scenes – starring himself – work individually, but he can’t stitch them together in any way that’s coherent.

This is probably because Russell Crowe is more interested in making a classic underdog story that’s ‘inspiring’ and ‘poignant’ rather than actually expressing a point of view or even having anything worth saying.

Even if Crowe did have a point to make, he loses track of it by allocating too much time to the minuscule details.

I think a sign of a great film is one that gets us thinking after the credits have rolled. We’ll reflect on the themes covered throughout the film, debate theories amongst one another, and sometimes even start asking ourselves questions.

But the questions that arise from ‘The Water Diviner’ mainly stem from confusion.

Why does Connor have this ridiculous, frivolous ‘fatherly intuition’ that always, so conveniently, gets him where he needs to go?

Why does Connor, apparently, see all these eerily accurate flashbacks of his sons fighting in battle?

Why does a film, which claims to be dedicated to the fallen soldiers of World War I, spend the majority of its running time on a predictable, superficial and irrelevant romantic subplot?

All these things, and much more, make ‘The Water Diviner’ so convoluted that it feels like three different films squished together.

There are some strong performances by Crowe and the supporting cast, and the cinematography is great when it’s not being ruined by silly CGI and clumsy slow motion, but if Crowe hopes to establish himself as a reputable name in the actors-turned-directors club, he’s going to have to do far better than this alarmingly mawkish vanity project.

While watching ‘The Water Diviner’, I couldn’t help but remind myself of something filmmaker Jim Jarmusch once said: “If you don’t really feel like you have something to say, it’s better not to say anything.”


Follow John Lyons on Twitter: @Fireinthelyons

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