Russell Crowe proves to be a proficient director in need of better material with The Water Diviner, an adaptation of Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios's inspired-by-true-events novel. In 1919, Joshua Connor (Crowe), a "water diviner" -- i.e., someone with the quasi-mystical ability to use tuning rods to locate underground H2O -- is left alone after his wife (Jacqueline McKenzie) commits suicide, shattered by the death of her three sons at WWI's 1915 Battle of Gallipoli. Determined to honor her wishes, Connor travels to the famed Turkish battlefield, where he endeavors to locate his boys' corpses and, ultimately, one child he hopes is still alive.
Crowe's visual framing and dramatic staging are as assured as his compelling lead performance. Yet as his story becomes weighed down by issues of cross-cultural understanding, forgiveness, and second chances -- the latter through Connor's relationship with a Turkish commander (Yilmaz Erdogan) and budding romance with a single mother (Olga Kurylenko) who believes her missing-in-action husband may still return home — the film comes to feel like a slight, straightforward tale distended to tedious lengths. Still, marked by aesthetic elegance and narrative inertia, it delivers at least one unforgettable scene: that of an injured soldier forced to listen to the last agonizing moans of his fallen frontline comrades.