The Water Man Review

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A young boy dealing with his ailing mother discovers an urban legend about a man who found immortality. Desperate to help his mom, he and a young girl he bonds with head off on an adventure hoping to uncover this mysterious man and find out if his ability to live forever is true.

REVIEW: David Oyelowo is a fantastic talent. The actor has given us beyond impressive performances in Selma, Queen of Katwe, The Last King of Scotland, Nightingale, and much more. His latest also happens to be his feature film directorial debut, and it's an unexpected treat. In it, he plays a father dealing with an ailing wife, and their son who is having issues watching his mother's health decline. The Water Man is a tricky story. Much like the brilliant A Monster Calls from 2016, this fantastical tale is grounded in utterly heartbreaking reality. It's a bold move for his first feature film directorial gig, one that requires a sense of balance between sadness and hope. So how does Mr. Oyelowo fair with this modern family fable? Let's take a closer look at The Water Man.

Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) is facing something no child at any age can fully prepare for, the prospect of losing a parent. As he watches his loving mother constantly struggle, his problematic relationship with his father Amos (Oyelowo) is amplified. When Gunner learns about a local legend, an immortal human the locals call "The Water Man," he decides that perhaps there is truth to this tale. And maybe if he finds this strange man, it could bring some help to the mother he adores. His quest truly begins when he meets a mysterious girl his same age by the name of Jo (Amiah Miller). She convinces the lad that this strange man living in the woods is real. The two set off on an unusual adventure, one that may reveal far more than just a mystic figure living in the woods.

The Water Man, David Oyelowo, Rosario Dawson, Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller, fantasy, drama, familyThe Water Man is an incredibly sweet and engaging tale. Oyelowo and Dawson are perfectly matched as parents trying valiantly to not frighten their young son during a difficult time. It's a very real and profoundly sad struggle that they are facing. There's an especially thoughtful examination of a father and son who can't quite connect. The family dynamic here is impressively explored. A boy who is afraid of his father. A father terrified of losing his wife. And a woman trying her damndest to keep her family together while her health is failing. As tragic as this may sound, it's handled carefully without delving too heavily into overt sentimentality.

As good as both Dawson and Oyelowo are, the real stars of The Water Man are Miller and Chavis. Much of this story revolves around the two as they head off into the deep woods hoping to find this immortal being. It all creates an exciting and emotional adventure. Even with that, the film's focus on their characters and the underlying pain they both feel is what makes it all work. The two young actors are fantastic here. The natural chemistry they share helps make what could have been something ludicrous, into a tender and, at times, uplifting tale of promise and acceptance. Had these roles gone to lesser actors, it would not have been near as moving as it ultimately is.

The Water Man, David Oyelowo, Rosario Dawson, Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller, fantasy, drama, family, JoBlo.comOyelowo took a bit of a risk by taking on such a delicate story. He could've easily pushed the emotionality of it all and completely missed the subtle little moments on display. Even the more imaginative sequences never feel like they go too far. If anything, there are a couple of moments that you truly need to accept that the film is a fantasy and say goodbye to logic, but that's a very mild criticism. The script by Emma Needell (credited as Emily  A. Needell) delivers a touching and occasionally magical tale, one that will tug at your heartstrings in an impactful way. After all, most of us have had to deal with a sick family member struggling day after day. Considering this is a family feature with a PG rating, it handles the more challenging aspects far better than you'd expect.

The Water Man is an impressive directorial debut for David Oyelowo. Creating a family drama that so deftly balances fantasy and drama is truly an accomplishment. As wild as this story could've been, the grounded telling of this tale creates a far more potent movie-going experience for the viewer. While all the performances are strong – both Maria Bello and Alfred Molina are terrific in supporting roles – this truly works thanks to excellent performances from the young stars. Expect to see much more from Lonnie Chavis and Amiah Miller because they are truly exceptional here. Don't let the family flick vibes and the could've been silly plot fool you, this is a powerful film with heart and soul.


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