Magazine article Variety

Crowe's 'Water' Less Than Divine

Magazine article Variety

Crowe's 'Water' Less Than Divine

Article excerpt

An often capriciously mixed cocktail of war film and cross-cultural family melodrama, "The Water Diviner" marks an ambitious if emotionally manipulative directing debut for Russell Crowe. Playing the titular Australian farmer who journeys to Tlirkey four years after the WWI battles at Gallipoli in search of his three missing soldier sons, he has crafted the film to play to his strengths of stoicism, determination and aw-shucks mateship at the expense of deeper truths about war and tolerance. Star and subject matter should combine for frothy grosses when the film is released locally Dec. 26, though the glass might be less full Stateside for Warners, which has set an April 24 rollout.

This is a natural companion piece to Peter Weir's revered 1981 drama, "Gallipoli," which followed the fates of two young sprinters who find themselves in the thick of the failed offensive that has come to define the Australian Digger's (read: soldier's) ideals of pluck, courage and dignity in the heat of war. The event prompted the April 25 establishment of Anzac Day, which commemorates the sacrifices of Australian and New Zealand troops who fought and died for their countries.

While researching a separate project on Australia's history, Melbourne-based scribe Andrew Anastasios found a letter from one Cyril Hughes, a high-ranking officer charged with recovering and interring the Diggers from the abandoned battlefield. One line caught Anastasios' eye and imagination: "One old chap managed to get here from Australia, looking for his son's grave."

That "old chap" has become Crowe's Joshua Connor, a farmer who spends his postwar days remembering adventures, including a dangerous dust storm, with his now-lost sons Arthur (Jack Patterson, later Ryan Corr), Henry (Ben Norris/ Ben O'Toole) and Edward (Aidan Smith/ James Fraser). When his grief-stricken wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), succumbs to her despair, Connor decides it's time to bring his boys home. His threemonth offscreen journey to Constantinople begins roughly, as he is rebuffed by hard-line British officer Brindley (Dan Wyllie) in his request to visit the battlefield. Then, grinning urchin Orhan (Dylan Georgiades) steals his bag and leads Connor on a chase through market stalls before guiding him to the hotel run by his mother, Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), and conservative uncle Omer (Steve Bastoni). …

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