The closing titles inform us that over eight million military personnel and civilians were listed as missing and presumed dead after World War I (1914-18). This story is about three such boys, sons of Australian Joshua Connor. After the end of the World War, Connor, a farmer with a gift for water divining. journeys to Turkey to search for his three sons, missing after the Battle of Gallipoli. Russell Crowe stars as Connor and also makes his debut as the director of this fictional drama based on a novel.

While in Turkey (some real locations, some sets), widower Connor stays in a hotel run by the recently widowed Ayshe and befriends her young son. The French-Russian Olga Kurylenko (Quantum Of Solace, To The Wonder) is unable to convincingly pull off a vulnerable Turkish lady. The brewing attraction between the two lonely adults takes the film into contrived sappy territory, a space director Crowe clearly struggles with. However, he seems more in command over the battle scenes and the scenes of anguish, guilt and quest. There is a strange scene of Connor teaching Turkish rebels to play cricket in a goods train.

Going against the in-command British authorities, Connor makes his way from Istanbul to Gallipoli, where he uses his divining skills to sense the fate of his sons while scouring the killing fields. Connor also relies on the visions that come to him at night to track down his “lost" sons. The screenplay uses flashbacks to recount the events of the war.

While Crowe the actor has impressive screen presence and conveys grief with subtlety, Crowe the director errs on the side of caution in this conservatively directed feature, which splutters along, occasionally hitting a high note (such as the unlikely friendship between Connor and Turkish Major Hasan) and barely exploring the idea of water divining.

The Water Diviner released in theatres on Friday.

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