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The Water Man
Remember those wonderful films of the 80s that managed to be about kids, but that didn’t play down to them? The Water Man is cut from that cloth: full of magic and emotion, but also the hard reality of the younger characters in play. There are also not a few echoes of A Monster Calls, though that isn’t a direct reflection.
At the center of the story is Lonnie Chavis (This is Us), who proves he can carry a movie and be more than a reflection of Sterling K. Brown. He and Amiah Miller (War for the Planet of the Apes) create a wonderful tension and connection that drives the story along.
If Chavis is the center, Rosario Dawson (Zombieland: Double Tap) is the heart. Her nuanced performance holds the family and story together and keeps it from tipping into melodrama or perfect-world fantasy. Two smaller roles add some nice flourishes as well: Alfred Molina (An Education) and Maria Bello (McFarland, USA).
When you realize this is a first-time script by Emma Needell, and a first-time feature for director and actor David Oyelowo (Don’t Let Go), the film becomes even more intriguing. The two worked together to create a wonderful and believable portrait of a family in crisis without taking shortcuts or feeling the need to force resolutions. The result isn’t perfect. Oyelowo could have used some additional guidance with his on-screen performance. It isn’t bad, but I don’t think he ever fully stepped out from behind the camera when he was in front of it. And some of the story gets a little rushed and some a little too unexplained.
But, ultimately, it is a solid piece with some wonderful performances. And, more importantly, a story that will age well with its watchers as their perspectives in life change.