Pushing the edge of PG-13 with regard to scary scenes and family tensions, DARK WATER's greatest strength is Jennifer Connelly. As Dahlia, a young mother in the midst of divorce, Connelly delivers a delicate, moving, and utterly convincing performance. A remake of director Hideo Nakata and writer Kôji Suzuki's 2002 film (they also made Ringu, source for The Ring), Walter Salles' movie creates a world that is rainy, spooky, and grim.
Dahlia's fear of being a bad mother like her own drives her to take repeated horror-movie style risks (walking into empty rooms, exploring the building's roof at night). Dahlia's experiences -- past and present, inside and outside, night and day -- begin to blur, as she's either believing or fulfilling Kyle's judgment that she's "wacko." She turns to a lawyer, Platzer (Tim Roth), who appears alternately quirky and reassuring. On one level, this seems funny (or ironic), that the lawyer is so unable to bring order to her nightmare; on the other hand, his inability to help suggests that Dahlia is abandoned, much as she has feared since she was a child. Horror movies frequently use the figure of the ineffective or bad mom (not to mention the murderous father; see the recent Hide and Seek), and so Dahlia's selfless resolve seems almost bracing. But Dark Water never develops either her particular dilemmas or responses beyond generic conventions. By film's end, it seems, she's still waiting.