The Water Diviner brings out the best from Russell Crowe as an actor and director.
From the start, The Water Diviner pulls you in and shows us a courageous story man searching for his three MIA (Missing In Action) sons. This impressive directorial debut from Crowe, 51, proves a new area of talent and craft from the actor. Crowe takes on the lead role as Joshua Conner, an Australian farmer who voyages to Turkey four years after WWI battles at Gallipoli to find his three lost sons. This was the dying wish of Joshua’s wife, Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), to bring her boys home even if just for burial. Inspired by a true story, Crowe hits a striking chord with the audience and emotionally draws them in.
Scriptwriters Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios channel in the sentimental effect for the film as Crowe leads with not only his directing but also his acting. At times, The Water Diviner may try too hard to push the envelop of a father sacrificing everything for his sons, but Crowe hits hard on this moral composition. We see flashbacks of his sons — Arthur (Ryan Corr), Henry (Ben O'Toole) and Edward (James Fraser) — charging the bloody battlefields against the Turkish forces. Crowe’s reality never looses focus and gives the audience a sense of respect and solemn.
Along the way in Constantinople, Joshua stays at a hotel where he meets Muslim widow, Ayshe (a beautiful Olga Kurylenko). Joshua begins to build a bond with Ayshe and her son Orhan (Dylan Georgiades). Joshua gives the film a grieving soul as he befriends with the enemy, Major Hasan (an excellent Yilmaz Erdogan), a Turkish officer who helps Joshua escape roadblocks put up by the British and by Aussie officer Cyril Hughes (a stern Jai Courtney), who's in charge of the Imperial War Graves unit.
Major Hasan does this out of respect for Joshua, as he’s the only father who came looking for his sons. In the end, Crowe’s directorial debut is simplistic but well crafted as we see the pain aching in Joshua’s heart for his three lost sons. War is brutal and affects not only nations but families as well. Crowe sees these affections and transcends them into raw storytelling and because of that his story succeeds.
The Water Diviner is rated R (Restricted). For war violence including some disturbing images.