The Water Man (2021)

17 Nov

Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The Water Man” is a charming and moving family film directed by acclaimed actor David Oyelowo, who proves to be a successful director based on this first effort. It feels like he took elements from the classic ’80s Spielbergian kid-adventures like “The Goonies” and “E.T.” and put a modern spin on them. In today’s movies, we can have a couple of kids going on an extraordinary adventure…while also dealing with real terrors such as leukemia, abuse, and even a wildfire.

Oh, and there’s some monster out there or…something.

“The Water Man” is about a young boy named Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) who learns of the legend of the Water Man, which dwells in the woods near his hometown and has harnessed the power of immortality. Believing the Water Man is real and can help save his ailing mother (Rosario Dawson), he, along with an older girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) who claims to have seen the legend itself, goes on a quest to find him.

Both the young actors are outstanding and their characters are richly drawn. (Though, Jo’s backstory is a little too easy to figure out upon first viewing, but it’s still compelling.) I was invested in their journey, especially because I didn’t know what was going to happen or even if this Water Man character was real. And in the end, I cared deeply about what became of these kids–and that goes for the adults too, from the leukemia-stricken mother to the struggling father (played by Oyelowo himself) to the helpful sympathetic police officer (Maria Bello) to the man who is absolutely certain that the Water Man is 100% real (he’s played by the great Alfred Molina).

“The Water Man” is proof that the family film is alive and well even today–both children and their parents can get something out of this beautiful story filled with tense adventure and well-deserved drama plus appealing characters going through it all. Check it out, show your kids, and prepare for an interesting blend of fantastical legend and human interest.

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