Russell Crowe’s directorial debut The Water Diviner is a gem. The story, characters and settings blend the sweetness of family love with the in-your-face violence of war.
Connor (Crowe) is a rural Aussie widower who goes to Turkey to find his three missing sons who fought in the century ago Battle of Gallipoli. (Remember the 1981 film Gallipoli?) Upon arrival in Turkey he meets the beautiful Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) whose husband is among the Turkish war dead. She hesitates to admit it because she would then be obliged to marry her husband’s brother (who she does not want to marry).
Occupational forces try to stop Connor from searching battlegrounds but he is determined. When he finds remains that indicate a son was killed execution style, Connor threatens the vanquished Turkish officer Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan). After cooling off, and learning that one of the three sons may be alive, he and Hasan become allies. As Connor continues on his quest, he actually has an opportunity to save Hasan’s life.
Connor is one of Crowe’s most likable characters ever. Though grieving the death of his wife and sons, Connor has some light moments with Ayshe’s son Ohran (Dylan Georgiades) and some flirtatious moments with Ayshe.
As a director, Crowe is solid, focusing of advancing the narrative with many gorgeous images and a handful of directorial flourishes (such as dissolving from a whirling dervish to a spinning windmill). Some of the war scenes are a bit more grisly than might’ve been expected.
Crowe’s acting talent has been a given since he first appeared on U.S. screens. Whether The Water Diviner is a one-off shot at directing or the start to the next chapter in his career, TWD is an impressive effort.