August 13, 2021

THE WATER MAN: David Oyelowo Branches Out

THE WATER MAN (Blu-ray Review)
2020 / 91 min


Review by Stinky the Destroyer😽

When any well-known actor decides to try their hand at directing, I suppose it’s natural to be a little more scrutinizing. Is the movie an ego stroking vanity project or a genuine labor of love? Regarding The Water Man, the latter seems to apply. 

Though David Oyelowo appears in the film, he’s a secondary character, playing Amos, the semi-estranged father of Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis), a wildly-imaginative 12-year-old comic artist who embarks on a quest through the woods to locate the mythical title creature. He learns from an undertaker (Alfred Molina) that the Water Man was supposedly a miner killed in a flash flood, but his possession of a rare stone resurrected him, and he has spent the last century looking for his wife’s body. 

Gunner wants to find him because his mother, Mary (Rosario Dawson), is dying of cancer and he hopes the Water Man can save her. Another local kid, Jo (Amiah Miller), claims to know where to find him and offers to take Gunner there for a price. It’s a surreal trek, with strange perils and obstacles that may or may not be the work of Gunner’s active imagination. We also learn more about Jo, whose tough persona masks a history of parental abuse. Meanwhile, Amos begins a desperate search for his son while trying to spare Mary the news that he’s missing (not the brightest decision, cancer or not).

Those pesky Extinction Level Events spoil everything.
But this is mostly Gunner’s story and how he learns to come to grips with his mother’s illness. Most of Oyelowo’s work is behind the camera, and as such, he does an admirable job parlaying the story’s somber themes with semi-whimsical - and occasionally creepy - fantasy elements. He wisely maintains a low-key tone, utilizing just enough animation and special effects to reflect the world through Gunner’s eyes. 

Considering its intended audience - kids and families - The Water Man is sometimes a little pokey and could use a few moments of levity. The performances are uniformly convincing and Gunner makes a likable protagonist, but its weighty concepts, while certainly discussion-worthy, might preclude the film from being part of family movie night more than once. Still, David Oyelowo shows he’s no slouch behind the camera. 


FEATURETTES - “The Making of The Water Man”; “Animation Behind-the-Scenes”

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Q&A - Featuring members of the cast & crew

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director David Oyelowo and cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd.

“THE ADVENTURES OF DETECTIVE KNOX” - Supplementary booklet of Gunner Boone’s comic. The same illustrations are shown during the end-credits.



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