WRITTEN BY: Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios
DIRECTED BY: Russell Crowe
STARRING: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Jai Courtney, Yilmaz Erdogan,Cem Yilmaz
RATING: 3.5 stars
The Anzac spirit was born out of the battle at Gallipoli during World War I, so it is great to see a film pay homage to Australia's war heroes on the 100th anniversary. What is so important about The Water Diviner, written by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, is that it also includes the tragedy of war from the Turkish point of view. There are facts and figures spread throughout the film in a subtle way to make audiences realise (in case the point had not been drilled into every Australian enough at school) that the battle at Gallipoli was an amazing story worth retelling time and time again for both sides. The Anzacs fought against all odds in rough terrain and the Turkish held their ground strongly. Thousands of Australians died, but so many more Turkish soldiers died on that land. The Water Diviner takes that momentous battle and focuses on one man and his journey to find his three sons who were lost to him at Anzac Cove. Any film that highlights the devastating and inspiring story of the Anzacs is worth seeing.
Connor (Russell Crowe) is a simple country man with three sons and a wife. But when his boys leave home to fight in Gallipoli during World War I, his whole life changes. Believing their sons have died in the war, Connor and his wife struggle to move on. So after the war ends and the recovery of bodies begins, Connor makes the journey to Turkey to find his sons' remains. He enlists the help of several people along the way including Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) who runs a small hotel and her son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades). The pair are also in denial about their personal loss in the war.
Crowe's feature film directorial debut has some obvious problems, including some very lame moments in the story and an embarrassing use of slow-motion. Also, some of the characters cast as Turkish are clearly not even close to resembling the race, so it is a bit jarring at times. However, the two lead Turkish male characters are Turkish actors and they are brilliant. Yilmaz Erdogan plays Major Hasan who is both likeable but also realistically harsh at times as the story slowly reveals his background and connection to Connor. Meanwhile, Cem Yilmaz portrays a far more hardened man in Jemal who is more deeply disturbed by his experiences during the war. Crowe's acting is also very good and he has good chemistry with Kurylenko who is much more than a pretty face. Additionally, Georgiades is an adorable choice for Orhan in just his second acting role. Jai Courtney appears as the man leading the recovery of the remains and he too gives a solid performance. The cinematography is also gorgeous and depicts Turkey well.
While The Water Diviner certainly has issues, its heart is totally in the right place.