Sunday , September 26 2021

Blu-ray Review: ‘The Water Man’

The Water Man is a family film with a strong cast, headed up by young Lonnie Chavis (TV’s The Is Us) and David Oyelowo (who also makes his directorial debut). Chavis plays Gunner, a preteen who’s mom (Rosario Dawson) is battling leukemia. While the film’s themes are hope, dreams, and the power of imagination, it’s also unavoidably a “disease movie.” Let’s be honest, movies about children struggling to come to terms with a family member’s cancer fight aren’t for everyone. They’re often quite depressing, even when handled with an element of fantasy, as is the case here.

Gunner, an aspiring comic book artist, has learned about his town’s very own urban legend: the so-called Water Man. He’s thought to be immortal, having discovered some kind of fountain of youth. Gunner teams up with a scamp named Jo (Amiah Miller), who promises she can lead him to this Water Man. Checking in for supporting roles along the way are Alfred Molina, as a local hermit with backstory on the Water Man, and Maria Bello. Bello is unfortunately wasted in a thankless role as a local cop.

The Water Man is well acted, but the story is something lacking in excitement. This is a very humble, modest directorial debut. It’s difficult to bag on such a well-meaning, gentle-spirited adventure story. It’s just that the plotting feels unresolved in the end. The quest for the Water Man provides very mild thrills. And when Gunner, armed with his father’s authentic Samurai sword (a local convenience store owner is far less concerned than he should be), goes missing his parents are slow to react.

Not to harp on the illness element, but the kid-oriented material feels out-of-balance against the mom-dying-of-cancer plot thread. It’s commendable that something of consequence is at stake, driving the story, but it seems too heavy for its target demographic—which isn’t just kids, but rather young kids.

Not likely to be of interest to those younger kid viewers are the special features, a pretty robust array of which are included. There’s a commentary by Oyelowo and the cinematographer (I didn’t listen to the track, but it should be pointed out the film does look great). There’s a lengthy (27 minutes) group interview from last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, as well as two ten-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The Water Man is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download from RLJ Entertainment.

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About The Other Chad

An old co-worker of mine thought my name was Chad. Since we had two Chads working there at the time, I was "The Other Chad."

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