Russell Crowe makes his directorial debut – and shoulders the leading role – with The Water Diviner, a well crafted if tonally uneven historical drama set in the aftermath of World War One.
His character is a grief-stricken Australian who travels to Turkey in 1919 to retrieve the missing bodies of his three sons, reported killed in the bloody Gallipoli campaign four years earlier. The ensuing quest is sometimes stirring, sometimes sentimental and sometimes far-fetched – indeed, it’s hard to tell which is more implausible: Crowe’s remarkable divining skills, his tentative romance with Olga Kurylenko’s Turkish widow or the unlikely scenes of derring-do that see him joining forces with the former enemy, personified by Yilmaz Erdogan’s noble Turkish major.
But Crowe holds things together with his ruggedly sympathetic lead performance and deserves commendation as a director for his film’s sensitive handling of the issues of loss and reconciliation. The portrayal of the Turks is notably generous, which can’t be said of the depiction of the few Brits on screen, silly asses to a man.
Certificate 15. Runtime 106 mins. Director Russell Crowe.
The Water Diviner is released on Blu-ray & DVD on Monday 10 August by Entertainment One.