Russell Crowe has always been a robust and distinctive onscreen presence, so it comes as little surprise that his choice for a directorial debut is a challenging and complex film that perhaps tries to do too many things at once. Set mainly in Turkey during the aftermath of the First World War, it attempts to combine historical drama with sentimental romance, and has mixed results, but there’s enough interesting material here to hold things together. Crowe shows a lack of experience as a director when handling the shifts in tone, but is helped by his own predictably formidable performance and his refreshing choice of subject material.

Beginning with a re-enactment of the Gallipoli campaign, though intriguingly and unusually seen from the Turkish perspective, the film quickly morphs into an examination of grief, as Crowe responds to his wife’s suicide by traveling to Turkey in order to recover the bodies of his three sons who were presumably killed there. He brings a lot to the table as an actor, and is helped by some stunning cinematography from the great Andrew Lesnie, but when a new love interest appears the film descends into unwelcome soap opera, the human melodrama seeming petty in comparison to the more profound things the film has to say about the futility of war.

THE WATER DIVINER
Russell Crowe, the gruff but emotive actor8
Russell Crowe, the well-meaning but inexperienced director5
A welcome Turkish perspective on the First World War and its aftermath8
The cinematography from the sadly-departed Andrew Lesnie9
The clumsy and unwelcome lapses into sentimental melodrama4
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • I don't think any named female characters talk to each other
7Overall Score

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