By Ryan Javier
In his feature-length fictional directorial debut, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe delivers a poignant and stirring piece on the harsh aftermath of war, what it does to the ones left at home and how a father’s enduring love for his children knows no boundaries.
Four years after his three sons perished during the Allied defeat of the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey, Australian farmer Connor (Crowe) is still suffering the heartache and pain of losing his children. Determined to bring their remains home for burial, he departs the safety of his farm and heads to Turkey to locate and recover his lost boys.
From the moment he arrives in Turkey, the occupying British Army offers no help and denies him a travel visa. Connor meets a young boy, a hotel porter named Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), who guides him to a hotel ran by Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), Orhan’s mother. Ayshe’s husband was another casualty of war, who didn’t return home, leaving her in charge of the hotel and raising the boy. As Ayshe struggles with maintaining a hotel, advances from her brother-in-law and raising her son, Connor befriends the young boy and the two develop a strong bond. The boy helps Connor discover a back route into Gallipoli, circumventing the British checkpoints.
Connor reaches Gallipoli and teams up with a Turkish commander and the two men set out to find the remains of Connor’s missing boys. Attempting to find Connor’s sons four years after they died is difficult enough, but two are faced with incredible odds and constant danger as the foreign militaries squabble with one another as they begin to carve up war-torn Turkey for their respective nations.
Crowe proves that he has what it takes to helm a big-budget picture with this one. He expertly takes advantage of the practical settings within Turkey. The beautiful countryside, ancient ruins and remote villages to not only serve as exposition, but he manages to transform the county of Turkey into a device that moves the plot forward. The film’s pacing is near-perfect; I never felt the movie lagged at all. I feel Crowe was remarkable at balancing the strong dramatic themes with the subplot’s love story. Utilizing binding elements of love and drama, along with the right amount of violent action sequences, Crowe is able to present a film that will appeal to a wide array of audiences. Crowe’s acting is, as always, spot on and his casting directors (Nikki Barrett and Pinar Celik) should be commended, as I felt every actor and their respective portrayals were simply brilliant.
As a huge fan of Russell Crowe, I for one am very proud of him for this magnificent accomplishment. Crowe first got behind the lens in 2002 when he directed the documentary, Texas, which was followed up by two short films (60 Odd Hours in Italy, 2002 and Danielle Spencer: Wish I’d Been There, 2009).
The Water Diviner is Rated R for strong violence and the film opens in theaters nationwide on April 24, 2015.