By CYNTHIA BIDDDLECOMB
The Water Diviner presents Russell Crowe as an early 20th century Outback farmer named Joshua Connor, skilled at divining to find water for his livestock—thus the title. This is Crowe’s directorial debut and another example of his fine acting.
Movie poster for ‘The Water Diviner.’ Courtesy/Reel Deal Theater
Connor’s idyllic farming life is disrupted when his three rambunctious and loyal sons enlist to fight in World War One. All three were shipped off to Gallipoli where we know Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops suffered a 60 percent casualty rate. All this is told in flashbacks, including scenes of the battle. This historical reference is the main reason to see the film. (For a film about the battle itself, see Mel Gibson in “Gallipoli”.)
On March 25, the 100th anniversary of ANZAC Day was marked throughout Australia and New Zealand. I was there when 80,000 people showed up at the ANZAC Memorial in Melbourne for a dawn service commemorating those who served. The ANZAC 100th was undoubtedly Crowe’s inspiration for the creation of this film, which first opened in Australia last December.
As the film opens, it is now 1919 and Joshua Connor and his wife have known for some time that all three of their sons were lost in the battle for Gallipoli. The boys’ mother wants Joshua to find them and bring them home. After her tragic death, he does just that, landing him in Istanbul, in a culture very foreign to him and yet strikingly beautiful. (If you have been to Istanbul—or the Outback—you will appreciate the cinematography in this film.)
As Connor lands in Istanbul, a young lad named Orhan (Dylan Georgiades) entices him to his family home where a bed and breakfast business has been set up. The boy’s father, we learn, died at Gallipoli, too. His mother, Ayshe (the beautiful Ukrainian actress, Olga Kurylenko), grudgingly puts up with Joshua staying there while he unsuccessfully tries to get permission from the British military to go to Gallipoli Peninsula.
Sneeking onto the Peninsula, Joshua’s determination, to search for his sons’ remains, impresses a Turkish officer, Major Hasan (the fabulous Turkish actor, Yilmaz Erdogan), who is there helping the British and Australian officers with recovery efforts. The love for one’s children and devotion to family crosses all cultural boundaries and unites us as humans. Hasan eventually becomes a friend, helping Connor look for one of his sons who may have survived.
This is an important film if only for what it says about the impact of war on families everywhere, and for the honor it does those who fell at Gallipoli. You will be glad you saw it.