'The Water Diviner' (R)

Russell Crowe is showing signs of mellowing in recent years. Where once he was driven by the blood and sweat of manly movies like Gladiator, Crowe’s recent roles have shown a softer parental side.

In Noah it was as the last father on Earth. In Man of Steel he sends his son to Earth to be its savior.

He continues the softer approach in his latest movie, The Water Diviner, where he plays Connor, a father who four years after the bloody battle of Gallipoli travels to Turkey to find the remains of his three sons who were lost in battle.

He’s driven to make this journey by both a fatherly instinct and a commitment to the mother of the boys who fell prey to the madness of grief.

Connor’s skill at being able to find water proves a big help when he gets to the battlefield where thousands died. At the same time, he’s finding out a lot about himself.

Not only does Crowe bring a sensitive performance to the film, as the movie’s director he manages to balance the horrors of war with the power of hope. He shows the emotional depths that with gut-wrenching loss.

The movie has multiple layers of emotional angst. Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) turns in a solid performance as a woman who can’t face the realities of what happened to her husband. That anguish trickles down to her son, Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), who tries to put on a brave face despite his own emotional issues.

Crowe shows great skill in staging scenes. He finds the right pacing to get the most out of the scenes without letting them become contrived.

And despite the split focus, Crowe’s latest turn as a caring father comes across as very real. He’s always had the skill to play such roles, as shown in A Beautiful Mind.

Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios have written an emotional script, but it falls apart when it comes to context. The Water Diviner is based on a true story but that only holds true with the travels of the father.

Where the film goes off the tracks is in its depiction of the larger events in history, particularity in the case of the Armenian Genocide. The story unfolds at the same time Greeks and Armenians are being slaughtered, but the movie ignores the subject completely. That’s like making a Civil War epic and omitting any references to slavery.

If you can overlook the historical lapses, Crowe’s work both as a director and actor show a sensitivity to the larger picture of the horrors of war. This is a powerful story of love, loss, faith and hope. It just suffers from the tunnel vision it has when it comes to history.

Cast: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Jai Courtney, Dylan Georgiades.

Director: Russell Crowe.

Screenwriters: Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios.

A Warner Bros. release. Running time: 111 minutes. War violence, disturbing images. Playing at area theaters.

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