“The Water Diviner”

Yilmaz Erdogan as Major Hasan, Cem Yilmaz as Cemal, and Russell Crowe as Connor.

“The Water Diviner” directed and starring Russell Crowe, is his full length feature directorial debut.  Based on true events, this film graphically and grippingly recounts the journey of a father in search of his sons’ bodies lost during the war in Turkey in 1915.  Four years have passed since the end of the war and Connor (Crowe) and his wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) attempt to continue on with their lives on their dry and desolate farm in Australia.  Connor’s ability to sense and detect the location of water and his innate connection with nature is uncanny.  Eliza’s ability to push forward without her three sons is more than she can bear.  After taking her life, Connor promises that he will bring his sons home to be buried with her.
Connor’s journey takes him back to the war torn and forbidden area of Gallipoli.  Thousands of men from both sides lay atop the soil; only their bones remain.  Gaining access to this area is no small feat for Connor, but with the help of a young boy and his reluctant mother, Connor finds a way to get to this gruesome gravesite.  With the war not far in the past, the Aussie is not a friend in many eyes.  Traveling through Istanbul and finding common ground with those who were former enemies and possibly the people responsible for Connor’s sons’ deaths, is truly a heart wrenching experience to witness.  It is Connor’s ability to be in touch with nature that brings this film to life, giving hope to a seemingly hopeless situation.  The connection with his sons is one that cannot be broken by war and death, but it can bring torture or healing to his living soul.  
“The Water Diviner” typifies a father’s love of his children, but also shows remorse and guilt in not protecting them.  As Connor delves more deeply into this dangerous adventure, hope carries him along.  It is the only thing that he has left to live for and this determination can be felt from within.  Flashbacks to the three boys’ young adventures allows us to identify not only with them, but with being a parent.  As Connor “feels” what the war has done to his boys, the viewer witnesses the horrors of trench warfare in incredibly realistic scenes.  The violence and brutality of these scenes are truly more than I could bare to watch.  
Crowe delicately and expertly balances the role of director and lead actor in this film.  You can feel the pain he is suffering and can somehow sympathize with his endeavor.  The seamless interweaving of past and present creates a meaningful and powerful story of love and loss, but also a story of hope.  And even in war, there is beauty as love and hope will always remain.  Yilmaz Erdogan plays Major Hasan, who finds a connection with Connor.  Erdogan has a standout performance finding a way to convey loyalty to country and comrades as well as empathy for another father from what was once considered enemy lines.  This story captures the differences in culture and beliefs, yet solidifies that we all the same in many ways.  
“The Water Diviner” is a beautiful story engaging the viewer on many different levels.  It’s takes you through the trenches of death through a ravaging war and lifts you up with love and life.  It’s harsh and violently realistic and will leave an impression long after the film is over.  Knowing that millions of people were killed in this war, with a great percentage never being identified, brings yet another level of horrific reality to this film.  The one flaw that takes away credibility of the film is the final 20 second shot.  Without this, the film conveys an important message and depicts a meaningful tale of a father’s devotion.  In addition, the film is a voice for all the men in unmarked graves who died for their countries; gone, but not forgotten.
3 1/2 Stars