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John Walter Davis
Tom Crick, a high school history teacher, is having trouble connecting - with his class, with his wife. He ventures into telling his class stories about his young adulthood in the Fens district in England. The emotional wounds from his younger life wash over him in present day, affecting his work and his relationships with his students and his wife. Written by
Martin Lewison <email@example.com>
Once upon a time, children, there was a history teacher who came home one day, after giving a class on the French Revolution, to find that his wife, the woman he loved since they were children, had herself committed a revolutionary, a miraculous act.
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On second viewing, "Waterland" is even darker than when we watched it when it was first released. The tragedy of Tom and Mary suffered during their youth comes back to haunt them in later years, as it's always the case in matters such as these. Of course, we don't know the mystery until it's revealed at the end, but there are indications that point out what looms ahead for these lovers.
Stephen Gyllenhaal, the director, has worked out the difficulty posed by a narrative that expands many years into blending history, as it happened, with today's reality as Tom, who is an older man now, recounts his youth to the history class he teaches in Pittsburgh.
The film has some lovely flashbacks shot in that part of England that doesn't seem to change. The early part of the story is marked by two tragedies, first the drowning of Dick, and by what fate has in store for Mary. We also learn about the secret story of Tom's unhappy family, as it enfolds when he tells it to the students. It all comes about because of Matthew Price challenges Mr. Crick when he asks the teacher about the practicality of learning history.
Jeremy Irons is perfect as the man who carries a burden he cannot get rid of. Sinead Cusack has a small but pivotal part in the story, as the grown Mary. Actually, the ones that fare best in the film are Grant Warnock and Lena Headey, who portray the younger Tom and Mary and give good performances. A young Ethan Hawke plays the inquisitive Matthew Price. David Morrissey, who is seen as Dick Crick, has some good moments. Pete Postlethwaite is wasted. There is a glimpse of Maggie Gyllenhaal at the beginning of the film, but alas, that is all one sees of her.
The haunting musical score by Carter Burwell and the dark cinematography of Robert Elswit contribute to give the film the right look that Mr. Gillenhaal wanted for the finished product, no doubt. "Waterland" should have been seen by more people.
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