The Water Diviner (3 stars)

The Water Diviner

Earnest drama which finds Russell Crowe behind as well as in front of the camera

While any director who chooses to end a film on his own smiling face clearly needs reining in, Russell Crowe’s directorial debut is a well-mounted and surprisingly assured piece of historical drama. Looking into the aftermath of World War I, Crowe fashions a sombre, intelligent tale of readjustment and personal healing.

Crowe plays Connor, an embittered but stoic Australian farmer who, following the suicide of his traumatised wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), heads to Turkey in the hope of locating the bodies of his three sons, all lost fighting for the ANZAC forces four years earlier at the Battle of Gallipoli. His arrival sparks a negative reaction from locals, but a blossoming relationship with single mother / hotelier Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and her ten-year-old son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades) provides Connor with a shot at redemption, a development complicated by the possibility that one of his sons may still be alive.

The Water Diviner scores points with its positive consideration of Turkish culture and there's strong support from Yilmaz Erdogan (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia), as a major who also fought in the war and has mixed feelings about his enemy’s presence in his homeland, while Jai Courtney features as a high-ranking ANZAC officer in charge of the retrieval and identification of bodies.

The romantic elements are contrived and clumsy but it generally does well to stop short of mawkish sentiment, and Connor’s journey is nicely delineated through his grudging understanding of Turkish traditions. Although it might be a little dry for some tastes, The Water Diviner marks Crowe out as a director of promise, and affords him a decent starring role to boot.

General release from Fri 3 Apr.

The Water Diviner

  • 3 stars
  • 2014
  • Australia / Turkey / US
  • 1h 51min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Russell Crowe
  • Cast: Jai Courtney, Olga Kurylenko, Russell Crowe
  • UK release: 3 April 2015

Connor (Crowe) is an embittered Australian farmer after WW I who, following the suicide of wife Eliza (McKenzie), goes to Turkey in the hope of finding the bodies of his dead sons. Crowe as director fashions a sombre, intelligent and surprisingly assured historical drama, with fine performances.