Movie: The Water Diviner
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
Review: Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) has a singular talent that comes in handy in the Australian Outback; he’s a water diviner. Using two metal rods, he finds where water is running under the ground, and digs wells to irrigate his isolated ranch. Along with his wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) and three sons Arthur, Henry and Edward, they eke out a living. Then WW I comes along, and the three sons join the army to do their patriotic duty. Tragically, all three young men are reported as killed in action the same day in 1915 at Gallipoli, and their parents are devastated.
In 1919 the war is over, and Joshua vows to go to the battlefield to recover his sons and bring them home for burial. But over 100,000 men were killed in the eight month battle, and the site is off limits except for Allied soldiers and a few Turkish soldiers tasked to assist in identifying likely locations to dig for bodies. Connor gets to Istanbul and is immediately rebuked by British authorities for coming to Turkey, and ordered to return home. Connor defies these commands, and finds himself in a small hostel run by a Turkish family, and tries to befriend a young widow named Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and her young son. With their assistance, Connor wangles a ride on a boat to Gallipoli, and manages to stay and search for his sons due to the intercession of Major Hasan (Yirmaz Erdogan), a sympathetic Turkish army officer.
The majority of the movie revolves around Joshua Connor’s search for what happened to his sons. There are a number of flashback scenes showing the brutal reality of trench warfare in WW I, where troops were ordered to make suicidal assaults into the teeth of deadly machine gun fire. Those few who made it into enemy trenches resorted to killing with knives, rifle butts, rocks and fists. It was fighting reduced to the most basic and inhumane levels. The film won the Australian version of the Academy Awards, and was the first directing effort by Russell Crowe. It is a compelling film to watch, and I highly recommend it, especially to those viewers who have an interest in history. A secondary story involves the Turkish people who ended up on the losing side of the war, and provides some insight to their conflict with the Greeks that extend to this very day.
Actress To Watch: Olga Kurylenko has developed into a very fine actress. She was eye candy in mediocre films such as Hitman and Quantum Of Solace, then showed some of what she is capable of in the Starz television series Magic City. In this film she gives a solid performance as a war widow struggling to raise a son and avoid being forced to remarry per the customs of her society.
Dialogue Nuggets: Eliza to Joshua – “You can find water, but you can’t even find your own children. You lost them!”
Priest to Joshua – “You haven’t been to confession in over four years. You’re all but lost to God!”
British officer explaining why they are trying to identify bodies – “This is the first war anybody has given a damn.”
Turkish soldier – “Why should we help this one father?” Major Hasan – “Because he is the only one who came looking.”
Joshua Connor – “I was so bad at courting. She only married me out of impatience.”
Major Hasan – “You want to fight? We are still at war. Join the Nationalists!”