To go from a star in front of the camera to the brains behind one is a rather common move in cinema, as actors such as Kenneth Branagh and Clint Eastwood, to George Clooney and Ben Affleck, have tried their hand at directing and triumphed. Now Russell Crowe has joined that list, while also taking on the lead role, in the epic World War One drama The Water Diviner.
Crowe plays Connor, a beleaguered, heartbroken father who is desperate to discover whether his sons are alive or dead, following the devastating Battle of Gallipoli – a battle they didn’t ever return home from. The anguish was enough to drive Connor’s wife to suicide, and so following her death he sets off to Turkey to find out the truth, hoping to at least recover the bodies to take home and bury next to his late wife. Though finding his sons is almost like looking for a needle in a haystack, and he requires the assistance of locals Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) to help him find closure.
The Water Diviner is by no means a bad movie, it’s just not a particularly great one. The story itself is intriguing, delving into a war somewhat less publicised; one that, generally speaking, many of us know less about. Connor’s journey is emblematic of the horrors of the war, representing more than just one grieving parent, but all of those who suffered loss during this time – and for many, parents who never knew for certain if their children were alive or dead. However Crowe loses sight of any subtlety and the crux of this narrative, carelessly deviating off-topic, detracting heavily from the poignancy that exists. Instead too much focus is placed on superfluous romantic subplots and domestic cases, cheapening the entire experience, and taking what should be a unique feature film, and turning it into something we’ve seen so many times before.
And yet there remains just about enough in this debut for Crowe to suggest that he has a career ahead of him on the opposite side of the camera, though his next project needs to be of a higher standard than this to ensure it’s not just a mere fling.