'The Water Diviner'
Director: Russell Crowe
Starring: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko
Russel Crowe in a still from his directorial debut 'The Water Diviner'. Pic/YouTube
Actors transitioning to direction has never been a smooth ride. Every now and then, a veteran actor who's had a bout of bad luck, both critically and commercially, will try to reinvent himself by grabbing the director's chair. It worked with Ben Affleck whose career was at rock bottom when 'Gigli' and 'Surviving Christmas' bombed. He turned it around with three back-to-back films which were not only critically acclaimed but also financially successful. He also balanced his acting career by starring in 'Gone Girl' and now the upcoming Batman movie. He's got it sorted, and now it seems like another actor looked at Affleck's fall and rise and wanted to replicate the results.
Russell Crowe's career, ever since he won the Oscar for 'A Beautiful Mind' has had very minor ups and huge downs. The only truly great film he's been in since then was 'State of Play' which co-starred Affleck. With 'The Water Diviner', Crowe takes on directorial duties, and the results are hit and miss.
'The Water Diviner' follows the story of an Australian man named Connor (played by Crowe himself) who is trying to deal with the death of his three sons in the First World War. When his wife too passes away with shock, he visits Turkey to retrieve the bodies of his sons so that he can bury them next to his wife's grave. Along the way he gets help from hotel owner (Olga Kurylenko) and a Major (Yilmaz Erdogan).
As you have probably guessed, 'The Water Diviner' is an exercise in sentimentality, mostly to a fault. This reflects, no doubt, on Crowe's past choices like 'A Beautiful Mind' and 'Cinderella Man'. Except, those films had the measured hands of experienced filmmakers, and Crowe's first attempt at direction mostly generates fake mawkishness rather than genuine emotion.
There are a few beautiful images in the film, thanks to 'Lord of the Rings' cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, but they do little to offset the overlong and saccharine story. Crowe sort of underplays his character and it becomes difficult to root for him or believe his tears. The biggest dramatic moment of the film fails to have any impact on you because Crowe's presence is muted, and his emotions are not very convincing.
It does not help that the secondary cast consists of Kurylenko, Isabel Lucas and the vastly unlikable Jai Courtney – they're all more models than actors and placing them in a heavily emotional film, requiring them to render serious 'acting', falls flat. Perhaps, it's best for Crowe to get back to doing tentpole blockbusters. In any case, we'll probably see him alongside Affleck again in 'Batman vs Superman'.