Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) is a dowser, a man who can find water in the Australian desert—a talent he will later employ when he goes searching for the bodies of his three sons, all lost on the same day in the disastrous World War I battle of Gallipoli. This supernatural touch isn’t really necessary to the film’s plot, and it’s a curious choice for Crowe (this is his directing debut). Part of Crowe’s immense credibility as an actor is how grounded he is—woo-woo stuff is really not for him. But the mystical hint is a sign of the film’s reach for significance, and of Crowe’s desire to say a few things while telling a very sincere story.
The Water Diviner follows Connor to Turkey, newly stripped of its status as the Ottoman Empire and now (in 1919, that is) overrun by British troops searching the Gallipoli battlefield.