(In French, On TV, September 2019) Actors turning directors is always an interesting transition, especially in considering the kind of project they take on. In The Water Diviner, we have Russell Crowe choosing a post-WW1 drama as his first directorial project, as he plays an Australian rancher going back to Turkey to search for his three sons’ remains following the battle of Gallipoli. It’s not a cheery subject matter (in fact, it begins with the protagonist’s wife committing suicide out of pure despair), but the film itself is somewhat more upbeat than you’d suspect from the first act. Perhaps the most impressive element of the film, other than Crowe’s competent direction, is the credible historical recreation of 1919ish Turkey, featuring extended sequences in the trenches of Gallipoli as well. There’s a decent amount of adventure and action here as the protagonist has to face down numerous obstacles on the way to completing his quest. Crowe is quite good in the lead role, with Olga Kurylenko being unexpectedly compelling in a supporting role. The circa-WW1 era portrayed here is incredibly messy and the film simplifies a lot of it—indeed, I found myself wondering if they’d manage to mention the Armenian genocide à la The Passage, and they didn’t. Still, The Water Diviner does manage to get audiences invested early on in what could initially appear to be a remote and dour subject matter—and if the result falls short of being spectacular, it does have good moments, a compelling performance from Crowe as an actor, and decent-enough direction to avoid him any embarrassment.