THE WATER MAN (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Desperate to save his ailing mother, 11-year-old Gunner runs away from home on a quest to find a mythical figure rumored to have the power to cheat death.
The Water Man in The Water Man refers to a local legend in a rural small town whereby an immortal man is rumored to be roaming the forest with a magical stone believed to be able to revive the dead.
Our young protagonist, Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) whose mother, Mary (Rosario Dawson) is suffering from terminal leukemia decides to venture into the forest with a runway, Jo (Amiah Miller) to search for the water man. Similar to Jo, Gunner has a somewhat estranged, distanced relationship with his Marine father, Amos (David Oyelowo making his directorial debut). Gunner who loves spending his time reading and coming out with his own graphic novels feels he will never live up to his father’s expectations.
Well, perhaps Gunner’s little adventure into the forest will demonstrate the extend of Amos’ love for his son.
The Water Man is a family movie that deals with identity and family on top of courage and the issue of death. Obviously, this is not a big-budgeted fantasy flick that’s going to take you to Narnia or Hogwarts. Director Oyelowo and screenwriter Emma Needell cleverly keeps everything grounded in reality occasional peppering the tale with creepy insects and growls from wild animals. Perhaps the water man is lurking in the dark forest or is it simply Gunner and Jo’s imagination?
The depth of the screenplay is also enhanced by computer animated wonder and for the most part, the movie is enriched by the charming chemistry of young actors, Chavis and Miller. Gunner naively believes Jo has encountered the water man before and the scar on the neck is the proof of it. In actual fact, Jo has run away from his abusive father and she is eyeing Gunner’s stash of money. Eventually, there is a happy ending after their massive adventure in the burning forest much of that owes to Amiah Miller’s natural flair and Lonnie Chavis’s perfect handling of his character which packs a whole lot of emotional punch.
Beside Oyelowo, The Water Man also features strong performance from Rosario Dawson as Gunner’s ailing but loving mother. Alfred Molin appears briefly as a caretaker who feeds Gunner with the folksy horror tale while Maria Bello is underused as the local Sheriff.
Although the movie doesn’t shy away from tackling life’s big issues which make it an obvious learning point, the plotting does meanders at times killing the momentum. Frankly, the movie’s main qualities are persuading the young ones to preserve on with their dreams and imparting serious lessons about life. Authentic and mature, it should worth a peek for families in search of a pleasing educational movie. The cinematography is a plus as well.
Review by Linus Tee