Director: Russell Crowe
Cast: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Cem Yilmaz, Jai Courtney, Dylan Georgiades, Ryan Corr
Length: 111 minutes
Opening: Now showing
Plot: The Water Diviner is an adventure set four years after the devastating battle of Gallipoli during World War I. It is based on the true story of an Australian, Joshua Connor (played by Crowe), who travels to Turkey to discover the fate of his three sons who were reported to be missing in action. Though initially hindered by military bureaucracy, Connor’s determination is unwavering and he is helped by the beautiful owner of the Istanbul hotel and then a Turkish military officer who had fought against his sons in the war.
NEW ZEALANDER but Australia-based Crowe, who is used to being the rugged star in front of rolling cameras, takes the dual role of director — his debut — and lead actor in this flick that explores the aftermath of the Gallipoli war which had left a deep impact on world history and the nations involved.
Presented in English, Turkish, Greek and Russian, The Water Diviner is based on actual events of Melbourne-based author Andrew Anastasios’ research. He was also the screenwriter for the flick.
Anastasios chanced upon a letter from a British Lieutenant Colonel Cyril Hughes, who was an integral part of the Imperial War Graves unit, bringing order to the abandoned battlefield in the Gallipoli peninsula, located in Turkish Thrace (or East Thrace) — the European part of Turkey — in the years immediately after World War I.
After an unfortunate tragedy, Connor is propelled to search for his sons’ remains and bring them home. With his oldest son’s (played by Ryan Corr) journal as his faithful companion, Connor lands in Constantinople — now known as Istanbul. He finds himself in a hotel run by a cautious Muslim widow named Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) who later helps him on his quest. Ayshe’s son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades) is taken in by Connor, and also plays an important part in the story’s romantic subplot.
Connor’s journey takes him to Gallipoli where he meets Turkish military officers Major Hassan (Yilmaz Erdogan) and Sergeant Jemal (Cem Yilmaz) who have been helping Hughes (Jai Courtney) to mark the graves of the fallen soldiers. Connor eventually forms an unlikely bond with Hassan, who is reputed to be merciless on the battleground. Erdogan plays his role well, showing a softer side as the plot progresses.
The Water Diviner will tug at audiences’ heartstrings and those who watch it should be prepared to go on an emotional journey with the actors. Some scenes were a tad draggy but maybe, necessarily so as the director tries to magnify the perils of war, what’s left in its wake and the people who are left to pick up the pieces.
In no way does the film glorify the war but rather shows how painfully difficult it is to have hope, particularly for all those involved after experiencing such loss. Many lessons are learnt through Connor’s journey but the most important one is the power of forgiveness.
A good watch especially for its historical value and the final flashback scene will surely have the audience reaching for tissues.
This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on February 17, 2015.