A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Water Diviner is a World War I-era drama that doesn't shy away from the tragic cost of war, showing how soldiers and their families are affected physically, mentally, and emotionally -- that is, if they're lucky enough to stay alive. Though one of the main characters is a young boy, the film is better suited for teens and older, given the intense subject (many graphic war/battle/fighting scenes, plus themes including suicide, widowhood, and complex geopolitical issues). Expect some swearing ("bastard," "s--t," etc.), mild flirting, drinking, era-accurate smoking, and many scenes showing men shot and killed, with their limbs torn off and faces mangled.
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What's the story?
Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe, who also directed) is an Australian farmer -- and a grieving father who lost three sons in World War I during the disastrous invasion of Gallipoli. (The film's title comes, presumably, from Connor's talent for finding water under arid soil, mostly by feel.) After his wife dies, too, Connor vows to bring their sons' bodies home to be buried next to their mother, so he sets off for Turkey, where thousands of soldiers' remains are still on the battlefield right where they died. In Istanbul, Connor is befriended by a young Turkish boy, though his mother (Olga Kurylenko) is initially hostile and unwelcoming, because her husband was also killed in the war.
Is it any good?
The best part of THE WATER DIVINER is Crowe, who reminds us again of his depth as a performer. Here, his portrayal of a mournful father determined to find his sons and, perhaps, himself is imbued with so much compassion and handled with much dexterity that he makes it watchable, despite the film being a frustrating enterprise overall.
That's because we wish Crowe had had more discipline as a director. In that role, he's prone to indulging a romantic subplot that truly doesn't need to be there, even if its characters are appealing and interesting. (Thank you, Kurylenko.) It's a distraction from what's already an engrossing tale of grief on both a personal and global scale. And then the last 20 minutes veer into buddy-action comedy territory, another error that strains the film's credibility. The Water Diviner had the potential to be a story of war and its exacting costs told on an intimate scale, but unfortunately, it makes false moves that dilute its power.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about grieving. How do the characters in The Water Diviner deal with loss? Why are some people more willing to accept death than others?
How does this movie compare to other films about war? Do the battle sequences seem realistic? Are they too graphic? What do you think the filmmakers' intent was?
What would you say the movie's main message is? How does it make that point?
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