The Weight of Water (3/10)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


The Weight of Water tells parallel stories, one in the 19th century, the other in the 21st.  In 1873 two Norwegian immigrant women were murdered and a lodger, Louis Wagner (Ciaran Hinds, who gives a distinguished performance as a lonely, sex-starved man trapped in a situation he couldnít have imagined in his worst nightmare), was hanged for them.  Jean (Catherine McCormack), a 21st Century photographer, goes to photograph the scene and has visions that someone else was the culprit.  She tries to prove her theory.  Along the way she gets jealous of her poet husband, Thomas (chain-smoking Sean Penn) and Adaline (Elizabeth Hurley), the girl friend of his brother Rich (Josh Lucas, still unshaven; apparently he hasnít found a razor since making Sweet Home Alabama).  Rich is seemingly oblivious to all this even though Adaline continuously flashes her breasts and quotes Thomasís poetry at him.

 The film, based on Anita Shreveís novel about an actual murder in 1873, bounces back and forth between the 19th and 21st Centuries and draws comparison between the 21st century Jean and her 19th century counterpart, Maren Hontvedt (a stunningly beautiful Sarah Polley, who quietly carries the movie), also in a troubled marriage.  To make the story even more convoluted, the 19th century story is also told in flashback, as we are presented with the murders at the outset, and then told what led up to them. 

 If Director Kathryn Bigelow was trying to out-Bergman Ingmar Bergman, she has made a valiant effort with The Weight of Water.  This might be dark when it starts, but it becomes absolutely black by the end.

 Donít get me wrong.  The storyís interesting and intricate, perhaps too Daedalian, certainly not light entertainment. At 105 minutes, this movie is at least 20 minutes too long, and it shows.  The cinematography by Adrian Biddle is gorgeous. The introductory credits are soft and entrancing. The actingís very good.  Even Elizabeth Hurley is credible, playing the role of a slut.  But this is a ponderous journey.  Bigelow, who showed she knows her way around the sea in K-19: The Widowmaker, brings us a terrific storm at the end, although what happens to the people in the water is sheer Hollywood.  When it ends shortly after a fanciful union in the water, one feels the weight.  This film is unremittingly depressing.

 The End