It is often painful and tragic to remember the events of Gallipoli. As thousands of ANZAC soldiers made it to shore, there were many Turkish troops waiting for them. Perhaps a key reason The Water Diviner is so interesting is because it captures the suffering and hurt the Turkish people also had to endure.
A lot of this is background information though. The essence of the plot is that after his wife kills herself due to trauma, Connor (Russell Crowe) sets sail for Turkey, to find his three sons who fought in the battle of Gallipoli. All of them are assumed to have died in battle. There were very few survivors. Connor is mindful of this, hoping to bring the bones home so they may be buried next to his wife.
The Australian and Turkish forces -led by Cecil Hilton and Major Hasan respectively- work alongside one other to find as many remains as possible. Naturally enough, there is a significant level of friction, although both sides manage to reluctantly keep their composure. A chapter of history from the Turkish viewpoint is opened slowly; and through this film, audiences will begin to realise just how much the grueling events of WW1 impacted on the wellbeing of the Turks. Ultimately – as with all wars – nobody won, as Greek and British forces in Istanbul created further friction. This movie is said to be “based on a true story” or “inspired by real events,” so it is difficult to discern truth from fiction. How much of what happened is true is hard to say, but it raises awareness nevertheless.
As Connor arrives in Istanbul, he finds accommodation (thanks to a cheeky little boy) and meets Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), a hotel owner who is very hostile towards him. This hostility is reciprocated by the British Army, who refuse to let Connor visit Gallipoli. However, true to his word he finds a way to Gallipoli. Hilton is irritated but Hasan demands they allow the search for the sons to take place. Using the same skill set which he uses to find water in Australia (hence the title of the film) Connor manages to find two of his boys, while one remains missing.
Some very strong performances are given, especially from Kurylenko and Erdoğan, who manage to capture the essence of their grieving characters. Crowe is as reliable as ever, although sometimes he has a bit of difficulty adjusting Connor’s mood from melancholy to sanguine, particularly when his character slowly starts to become more compassionate towards Hasan; an actor of his experience should be able to present a smoother transition than was demonstrated.
As the journey to find the last son continues, all sorts of troubles come up. That’s as much as can be said without ruining the plot!
Crowe does a reasonably solid job in his directorial debut. There were unfortunately some occasions where loud noise or modern dialogue interfered with this post-WW1 story, but aside from that, it was a reasonably impressive performance. It was nice to actually see all the adversity remain in the story, rather than hand picking something here or there for effect.
I’m hoping there are more films about “The Great War” which will soon be made. Although there is nothing great about war, it certainly is fascinating to learn about the past so we aren’t damned to make the same mistakes again. Sadly though, not many people learned. Just 21 years later another global war began and with it, another unhappy ending on an international stage.
The Water Diviner has quite an abrupt ending, much like this review. “It’s all in the coffee,” after all.