After his grief-stricken wife Eliza (McKenzie) commits suicide, Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe) heads to Turkey to find the bodies of his three sons who are presumed dead following the battle of Gallipoli in 1915. Once there he encounters beautiful hotel owner Ayshe (Kurylenko) and her 10-year-old son Orhan (Georgiades) who, along with the sympathetic Turkish Major Hasan (Erdogan), assist him in his quest.
There’s no denying the importance of the story, and Crowe does well to shed a balanced view of the conflict. Indeed, the opening flashback war sequence comes from the Turkish viewpoint, setting the tone for what’s to come. Crowe is also aided by Andrew Lesnie’s impressive cinematography throughout, a raging sandstorm being an especially beautiful highlight. To its credit The Water Diviner doesn’t shirk away from the horrors of war either, and as Joshua’s missing sons Corr, O’Toole and Fraser are brutally effective in depicting the harsh realities of battle. The trio is where much of the emotion lies, but the script by Knight and Anastasios doesn’t focus enough attention on them. Instead, The Water Diviner spends far too much time on a romantic sub-plot between Joshua and Ayshe that feels entirely unnecessary.
Crowe does get good performances from his cast though, unsurprising given his 25 years of experience in front of a camera. Erdogan lends strong support as the aforementioned Major, and Courtenay also leaves an impression as a high-ranking Australian officer in charge of retrieving and identifying the dead. It’s not enough to leave the intended impact this story calls for, but Crowe has at least shown his aptitude in directing. One can only hope he has better scripts to work from in future projects.