Acclaimed actor David Oyelowo makes his directorial debut with the YA adventure “The Water Man” featuring a 12-year-old protagonist named Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) who embarks on a venture through the forest to find a mythical being who may hold the key to immortality. He’s aided by a mysterious teenage girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) who claims to have encountered the urban legend and she has a scar on her neck to prove it. Oyelowo pulls double duty as Gunner’s father while Rosario Dawson plays the terminally ill mother that Gunner is so desperately trying to save.

Review

THE WATER MAN (2021)
David Oyelowo, Rosario Dawson, Lonnie Chavis, Amiah Miller, Alfred Molina, Maria Bello
Directed by David Oyelowo

Written by Emma Needell, making her screenplay debut after being featured on the renowned “Black List,” the film takes place in a small rural town in Oregon where the Boone family has relocated away from the noisy big city to give mother Mary (Dawson) some tranquility as she battles Leukemia. She shares a strong bond with her young son Gunner (Chavis) an aspiring artist who is working on his own graphic novel about a ghost detective. Father Amos (Oyelowo), an ex-military man who just returned from a tour in Japan, has trouble connecting with his son. He doesn’t understand Gunner’s fascination with art.

Being an artist, Gunner has a vivid imagination so when he discovers a local urban legend about an immortal being named The Water Man, his curiosity leads him to local mortician and resident expert Jim (Alfred Molina) who is convinced the mythical figure is real.

In Jim’s possession is a map of the Wild Horse Forest, an enchanted wooded area filled with creepy, crawly, icky things, the reported home of a miner named Edward (aka The Water Man) who found a magical stone that helped him cheat death when the local town was washed away by a devastating flood which killed his beloved wife many years ago. Edward is the Pacific Northwest version of La Llorona, the Hispanic urban legend who haunts the rivers in search of her drowned children, except he searches for his drowned wife hoping to bring her back from the dead with his mystical stone.

Gunner decides the only way he’ll be able to save his terminally ill mom is to take the magic stone from The Water Man. Armed with his father’s prized samurai sword he journeys into the woods but he’s not alone. Jo (Miller), a teenage runaway who lives in a tent among old ruins filled with graffiti that recall the Cabrini-Green lair of another urban legend, Candyman, claims to know where The Water Man lives. The local kids pay to hear her tell stories about the mythical legend who she claims is responsible for the scar on her neck. Gunner offers to pay her to guide him through the woods and so their adventure begins.

If it sounds like the film is too scary for young kids, it’s not. Oyelowo crafts a solid family adventure with just enough spooky elements to keep a young audience interested. Animated sequences add a nice touch and adults will enjoying seeing an exceptional cast featuring Dawson, Molina, Oyelowo, and Maria Bello as the local sheriff investigating the runaway kids.

Lonnie Chavis (“This Is Us”) and Amiah Miller (“War for the Planet of the Apes”) are the film’s biggest assets with convincing performances as their characters deal with real issues of loss and abuse. “The Water Man” is a wonderful adventure for the whole family.

(3 stars)

Now showing at the following theaters
Movie Tavern Hulen
AMC Hulen 10
AMC Eastchase 9
AMC The Parks At Arlington 18
Movie Tavern Central Park

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Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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