[Screen It]


(2021) (Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller) (PG)

Read Our Full Content Movie Review for Parents

Drama: A boy seeks out a mysterious and supposedly immortal legend in hopes that he might hold the answer to his mother's terminal illness.

Gunner Boone (LONNIE CHAVIS) is a boy who's recently moved to a small town in Oregon with his mom, Mary (ROSARIO DAWSON), and dad, Amos (DAVID OYELOWO). While he's not close to the latter who's been away in the Navy, Gunner is with his mom and thus is concerned about her serious illness that's brought Amos back home.

Accordingly, Gunner's concern has manifested itself in the graphic novel comics that he pens and the themes of death. While doing some research, he comes across notes written by the local funeral director, Jim Bussey (ALFRED MOLINA), about a mysterious but legendary figure known as the Water Man who allegedly survived a flood long ago and has ever since been searching for his dead wife to bring her back to life.

That somewhat jives with a story that Gunner earlier heard from a local girl, Jo Riley (AMIAH MILLER), who claims she had a run-in with the Water Man and charges other kids for additional details. Thinking that figure might possess a cure that could save his mom, Gunner ponies up not for more of the story, but instead for Jo to take him into the woods to find him. Always willing to take the cash, she agrees, and they set out for the woods, but when he doesn't come home, Amos contacts Sheriff Goodwin (MARIA BELLO) about him missing.

With a growing wildfire in the forest where the kids are somewhere located, she, Amos, and Mary hope they can be found in time, much like Gunner desires to find the Water Man and his potential cure.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

People often think that entertainment that's geared for and/or featuring children as the main characters should be safe and kid-friendly. But from Grimms' Fairy Tales centuries ago (that were, well, often grim) up through Disney animated features where one or both parents die or are already dead, such stories often have dark elements.

That certainly applies to "The Water Man," a drama where actor David Oyelowo not only stars in a supporting role, but also cuts his teeth in the director's chair. He appears as Amos Boone, a Navy man who's returned home to tend to his sick wife, Mary (Rosario Dawson), much to the double dismay of their son, Gunner (Lonnie Chavis).

The boy is not only worried about his mom -- to the point that the themes of death and dying are showing up in the graphic novel comics he pens -- but he also believes he's not good enough in his father's eyes (who isn't pleased his son was at a stranger's funeral doing "research") and thus liked it better when his dad was away in the service.

And thus, when he twice hears about the title character -- first from a teenage girl, Jo (Amiah Miller), who gets other kids to pony up to hear her tale of an alleged encounter with him, and then coming across notes from the local funeral director (Alfred Molina) who was researching the mysterious figure -- that he concocts his half-baked plan.

Since the title character is supposedly immortal thanks to a unique stone he mined decades ago and that apparently brought him back to life from a flood that swept over his town, Gunner believes Jo can help him find the man and that stone and then use it to save his mom's life.

As penned by Emma Needell, the story is of the quest variety -- complete with a special sword -- where once the parameters are set up, the two kids enter the forest, one full of hope and the other a "sucker is born every day" mindset until things get dicey.

And with the boy's mom getting sicker and an added theme of child abuse regarding Jo and her dad, the film certainly has its dark moments. But also mysteriously cool ones, funny bits, nice emotional scenes, and a sense of old-fashioned adventure that's missing in many of today's "we need to be hip" kids movies.

While I thought it lost a little bit of steam in the third act, overall I liked the film quite a bit, and Oyelowo shows he has what it takes behind the camera as much as he does in front of it. Thankfully anything but all wet, "The Water Man" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 3, 2021 / Posted May 7, 2021

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