Russell Crowe’s dramatic directorial debut shared top honours with Jennifer Kent’s brilliant The Babadook at the Australian Academy of Film and Television Arts awards in January.
It’s easy to see why the film struck a chord with Oz audiences, returning to the 100-year-old horrors of the Gallipoli campaign, which still occupies a dark place in the nation’s heart. Crowe plays bereaved father Joshua Connor, who travels to Constantinople and beyond in search of his lost sons’ remains, his skills of divination lending a mystical edge to his melancholy quest.
With Andrew Lesnie behind the camera, The Water Diviner is not short on arresting images, the Lord of the Rings director of photography moving effectively between Lean-inflected widescreen vistas and more “grainy” battlefield footage. It’s intriguing, too, to find an Australian film that goes out of its way to foreground the Turkish losses in this terrible conflict.
A shame, then, that The Water Diviner should be hobbled by a ludicrously Crowe-barred romance which sees Russell making goo-goo eyes at former Bond-girl Olga Kurylenko. While the heartless Brit caricatures may be an accepted genre staple, the smouldering cultural exchanges between a fiftysomething Oz farmer and a winsome Turkish hotelier push this from old-fashioned melodrama into modern-day mush.
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