Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: A boy sets out on a quest to save his ill mother by searching for a mythic figure said to have magical healing powers.
Review: While there are many children’s adventure stories brought to screen, most of them focus on topics that are airy and easy to handle. Then there are those that tell a deeper story that tackles topics even adults find difficult, but from a child’s point of view. That’s what British actor David Oyelowo (Selma, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) has done with his directorial debut, The Water Man. And, like Bridge to Terabithia and My Girl, he adeptly directs this tale in a way that children will understand and adults can enjoy.
Gunner is a young, talented boy with a gift for art and a talent for making up stories. His mother Mary, played by Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Daredevil, The Mandalorian) has leukemia and his father Amos (David Oyelowo) is fresh out of the Navy after spending much of his time overseas. Amos and Gunner are almost strangers to each other, both not knowing how to connect. And with his mother’s health deteriorating Gunner decides to run away with a precocious, world-weary young girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) on a quest to find “The Water Man”, a legendary being that may or may not exist and who may have the secret of immortality.
It’s your hero’s quest told through the eyes of a child so it requires a bit of childlike wonder to truly immerse yourself in this story. With a fairytale-like atmosphere, Gunner and Jo’s adventures into the woods are told in a way that easily allows you to see both the truth in Gunner’s belief that The Water Man is real and the harsh truth we as adults know. I remember being a kid and sleeping over at my best friend’s house. There was this tree that made shadows outside her window, swaying and creaking into the night. We convinced ourselves there was a monster outside trying to get in, our imaginations creating something mythical and magical out of the mundane. And Oyelowo’s understanding of this shines through in his directing of these scenes.
The lead performances are all heartfelt and deeply moving with moments from young Lonnie Chavis (Gunner) that will bring tears to your eyes. Both Oyelowo and Dawson bring a real believability to their parental roles and the supporting performances from characters that don’t have that much screen time, like those of Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Lights Out) as Sheriff Goodwin and Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2, Frida) as Jim Bussey, a town historian who believes the legend of The Water Man is real, are brief but capable.
The special effects are minimal but skillfully executed and I love how they utilised them to blend Gunner’s artistic drawings to life. The score, while perfectly suited to the story, did however wear a bit on my nerves as it played constantly (or at least if felt that way) in the background of every scene.
Still, The Water Man is a beautiful and moving way of tackling the issue of dying/death through the eyes of a child. For those who have unfortunately been down this road, I could see this story affecting them much deeper than it would other viewers. But we can all relate to the fear of losing a loved one and the message that we should love one another while we have one another is one we can all relate to.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
You can check out more adventurous articles below:
Love and Monsters is a Fun, Adventure-filled Good Time
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Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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