The Weight of Water (2002)
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Review Date: November 29, 2002
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Alice Arlen, Christopher Kyle
Producers: A. Kitman Ho, Sigurjon Sighvatsson, Janet Yang
Sean Penn
Sarah Polley
Catherine McCormack
This film features two concurrent stories, one which takes place during the 1870s centering around the murder of two young women, and another in present day, which tracks two couples on a boat, in search of answers to the murders. Lots of water ensues...just kidding. Actually, I still have no idea what the title means, but a mystery definitely does ensue.
I was quite surprised to discover that I actually liked this movie (keep in mind, I was sipping plenty of red wine at the time). With its problematic past (it was shelved for over two years), period undertones and slew of negative reviews, I was sure that this was going to be yet another case of a director with obvious skills as a "Hollywood" filmmaker (Kathryn Bigelow of STRANGE DAYS and K-19 fame), giving the art-house circuit a go-around, and failing miserably. But what do you know...the film was actually an engrossing ride. First of all, it features a solid cast all around with Sarah Polley leading the way with a gripping performance as the very lonely, angst-ridden 1870s Norwegian housewife. Sound boring? Well, hold on: the movie actually weaves back and forth with flashbacks as a double-murder from back in the day is studied by two modern day couples. The contemporary folk are also very good, especially McCormack, the one leading the "investigation", as well as Penn, her husband, who plays a pretentious, flirtatious poet who does nothing but drink and smoke during the entire picture...how strange that he would sign on for something like that, eh? The film also features the lovely Josh Lucas, playing Lucas with a smile and the even lovelier Elizabeth Hurley, cast ideally as the tramp, oops...I mean, "object of desire" on the boat. For all the pervs in the audience (no shoving please), it's to note that Ms. Hurley does finally flash her dynamic duo in this film and the results are nothing less than glorious. Thank you.

But the showcasing of boobs are the least of this film's goals, in fact, it actually managed to keep me engaged throughout its lengthy 110-minute run with both of its parallel stories. Having seen the wonderful POSSESSION before this film, it reminded me a lot of that movie, which also flashes back and forth between modern times and a mystery from the past. And even though some of the mystery in this film is given away about halfway through, I still enjoyed watching it because all of its characters were developed enough for me to appreciate their respective points of view. In fact, each of the four characters on the boat seemed to have "their own shit going on". Polley was also superb in her scenes and I loved how both stories ultimately connected in the end. The film definitely does move slowly (which not everyone could appreciate), doesn't feature any action and does slip a little pretension into the mix every now and again (the title of the film also sucks), but for anyone who enjoys a decent mystery (based on a true story incidentally), solid acting or wants to see Penn drink/smoke during an entire picture (who doesn't?) or Hurley bounce around in a bikini...sign on the line that is dotted. Bigelow is also to be commended for successfully balancing both stories, delivering just enough style and insight to guide us along this journey and for offering powerful interpretations of both jealousy and love.

The movie also slaps some incest and lesbian undertones into its mix (although the lesbo undertones might just have been in my head), and ends off on a rather charged, if somewhat convenient, storm. Yes, it might take about half an hour to "get into" the flick, and the flirtatious back and forths between Penn and Hurley are a little over-the-top, but once you get into this flick's groove, I'm confident that anyone who enjoys period mysteries, as well as tales of infidelity and murder...will enjoy much of what this film has to offer. Either way, Sarah Polley deserves some kind of recognition for her role in this film. Impressive.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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