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TIFF 2020: “The Water Man”


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The love of a child for its parent is stronger than words can describe. His or her connection with the mother is immeasurable. And, for instance, when something bad happens that takes away one of the parents, it’s almost like a fire begins to burn inside them.

Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) has loving parents. He admires his dad (David Oyelowo), and dearly loves his mother (Rosario Dawson). Tragedy strikes the family when Rosario is diagnosed with leukemia. Having not much time left to live, it breaks Gunner’s heart which forces him to look for an alternative way to cure his mother. When all the books he reads does not provide the desired solution, he teams up with a girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) to get deep into a forest to look for a mythical person, the Water Man, who the boy believes has the magical power that can potentially save his mother’s life.

Screenplay by Emma Needell and directed by first-time director David Oyelowo, “The Water Man” is a surprisingly moving fantasy family drama, that takes the viewer deep into the core of loss and inability of coping with it. Gunner is an exceptional boy; he is talented and loves drawing. When we meet him, he works on his detective story whose ending he doesn’t know yet. In the meantime, he reads all the books about leukemia. At some point, he goes after his mother’s doctor to suggest what medication she should prescribe to his mother.

Seeing how his mother’s life fades away like a flame from a candle, the boy finds out about The Water Man. Joe, in the meantime, tells the kids from neighborhood, in exchange for money, the story of The Water Man and his whereabouts. When Gunner hears that, he is willing to pay all the money he has, to find the person who can bring happiness back to his family. Throughout his journey with Jo, the viewer will cry with Gunner, appreciate his attempt, and feel proud for him as someone who won’t hesitate to risk his own life for the sake of his mother’s.

Like every family drama, this film also offers an interesting educational point of view. We always try to chase the stars, go after things that may not exist, do things that do not matter whereas the person who needs our attention, our time, and even our hug, is left alone. This is why Oyelowo’s film works. Because it has good intentions, an uplifting story, and a goal to achieve. More importantly, it has a beautiful story that’s well-narrated throughout with no gaps to complain about.

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