The childlike wonder of embarking on a mystical quest
THE WATER MAN (2021)
It’s been a long year, but now we are at a state where more films are being distributed, both big and little! We can experience giant lizards fighting giant monkeys, an anime swordsman slaying demons, and, with The Water Man, the childlike wonder of embarking on a mystical quest.
Making his directorial debut, David Oyelowo pulls inspiration from Spielberg’s family films such as the much-referenced E.T. There is a strong sense of perspective at play, with most of the film shot at eye-level with our kid protagonist. However, we are occasionally at eye-level with the adults when appropriate, adding another layer of complexity to the film. There’s also a lot of attention to detail, no matter how large or little, that I greatly appreciated to help make the film as immersive as it could be.
When his mother becomes a victim of her growing symptoms of leukemia, young boy Gunner Boone embarks on a quest to find the mythical Water Man for a cure. As I said above, The Water Man encapsulates the child-like wonder from the family Spielberg films of yore and applies it to the new generation. The plot is tightly paced, with each scene motivated and adding more to both the story, the world, and the characters.
Simple, I know, but the genius is in this simplicity. It doesn’t fail to give a satisfying and moving ending similar to the likes of A Monster Calls.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Lonnie Chavis plays the lead, Gunner, and successfully carries the film alongside his co-stars Amiah Miller, Rosario Dawson, and David Oyelowo himself (and Alfred Molina shows up for a few scenes and performs his role extremely well, as always). Everyone does their part in earnest, with performances that evoke so much empathy and chemistry that made me believe these people were truly friends and family. Everyone is well-rounded, with strengths and flaws, and everyone satisfies an arc to create a fulfilling film.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
I was surprised by the amount of visual effects in this film. Gunner, the protagonist, has a throughline where he is creating a graphic novel, and when we see it during the creative process, the illustrations are animated. Then, as the myth of the Water Man becomes introduced and integrated, so too does pencil-drawn animation to show Gunner’s imagination in a seamless manner. There are also some instances of CGI that are blended well with the environment.
The hair and makeup shouldn’t go unnoticed either. Everyone looks and feels distinct and you know their personalities based solely on how they look and move before they even say a word. Then there’s the Water Man himself. Not sure if it was special effects or CGI (I’m willing to think it’s the former, given how Spielbergian the rest of the film is), but man it looked great!
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score isn’t memorable, but it does get the job done. It blends with the visuals, almost unheard, but pulls at the heartstrings at just the right time. The sound design itself is on point, with nothing being too loud or too quiet. It’s juuuuust right!
The Water Man was a film I didn’t know I wanted. Well-crafted, engaging, and moving, The Water Man succeeds as a solid film for the whole family with a healthy dose of inclusivity to top it off.
RLJE Films will release the adventure/drama film THE WATER MAN In Theaters on May 7, 2021.