Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 9:44 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘The Water Diviner’

3 Stars — Thought-Provoking

Directing himself in the title role, Russell Crowe creates a multilayered romantic tale in The Water Diviner.

Set within World War I when Australia invades the Ottoman empire, the story of a father whose three sons are lost in a particularly brutal battle is true. Based on that fact, Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios work together to create the screenplay from the book of the same name written by Andrew and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios.

The romance is both expected and exotic. Joshua Connor (Crowe) lives with his family in the Australian outback, where he has a special skill of identifying where to dig his wells. Deeply in love with Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie), they live an idyllic agrarian life together with their three sons Arthur (Jack Douglas Patterson and Ryan Corr), Edward (Aidan Liam Smith and James Fraser) and Henry (Ben Norris and Ben O’Toole).

Deeply connected to his sons, Joshua nevertheless encourages them when they join the Australian and New Zealand army and soon engage in the Battle of Gallipoli. Using flashbacks and dreams throughout the film, the tale weaves Eliza and Joshua’s sorrow with their sublime past.

When Eliza demands that Joshua go find their sons’ bodies and bring them back to the ranch, he hesitates until she commits suicide and now he goes to Turkey to fulfill her wishes. It is a journey inward as he faces his own complicity in their loss as well as outward as he discovers and recovers life.

As such romantic tales go, Joshua soon crosses paths with a beautiful widowed Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), whose son, Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), helps fill the emptiness in his heart.

In a more complex way, Joshua is befriended by the Ottoman officer who was in charge of the army that killed his sons, Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdoğan). This relationship adds a new level of intrigue and hope.

Being able to divine where water might be available below the surface is a helpful metaphor for the love that Joshua has for others, which also lies beneath the surface. Knowing where to give love and how to reignite his family is a helpful ability for all of us.

Discussion

» It isn’t often that a father sends three sons to war together. Joshua regrets that, in their teens, he had taught them about God and country in romanticizing war. How were you taught about war and what do you teach others?

» When the stern pastor notes that Joshua’s wife prayed weekly for her sons, do you believe this prayer was answered? In what way was it answered?

» Why do you think Joshua rejected God?

» The ongoing war in the Middle East is many centuries long. What do you think will bring peace to that region of humanity?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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