The Water Man, David Oyelowo’s first outing as a director, is a PG rated story for kids. It’s part fairy tale, part quest, part fantasy and 100% heartwarming. You can watch it on Netflix.
The Water Man stars Lonnie Chavis as Gunner. He’s a new kid in town. The setting is the Pacific Northwest surrounded by forest.
Gunner’s mom, Mary (Rosario Dawson), is sick. His dad, Amos (David Oyelowo), is home at the moment but he’s often gone. Gunner distracts himself creating a graphic novel about a detective who is investigating his own death. He reads Sherlock Holmes books he gets from the Once Upon a Time bookstore run by Mrs. Bakemeyer (Jessica Oyelowo).
Gunner happens on a girl named Jo (Amiah Miller) who survives by charging kids to hear stories about the legendary forest man known as the water man. She claims to have seen him and that he caused the scar on her neck.
When Gunner realizes his mother is getting worse fast, he switches from mystery novels to books about leukemia. In one of them he finds handwritten notes in the margins about the water man granting eternal life. He traces the notes to Jim Bussey (Alfred Molina). He learns the myth of the water man, who Bussey swears is real. Supposedly the water man has a stone that can bring the dead back to life.
Gunner offers money to Jo to lead him through the forest to the water man. If he can get the stone, he can save his mom. She takes the money and they head into the forest.
A big part of the film is the adventure looking for the mythic man and his stone. Gunner is gone for several days. His parents ask Sheriff Goodwin (Maria Bello) for help. In the forest there are dangers, adventures, scary scenes, a fantasy sequence and a forest fire. There are also funny moments. The kids have a backpack full of canned peaches but no can opener. They are freaked out by the bugs living in the trees.
Everything about the film is from Gunner’s point of view. The camera is kept low at his height. The decisions are his, the imagination is his, and the adventure is his. The relationships with his parents and with Jo are from his point of view. I thought the film was a beautifully filmed and directed story about a boy’s love for his mom. Emma Needell wrote the film.
The film is carefully written with just the right amounts of love, danger, adventure, and fantasy to be enthralling for kids – and for grownups, too.
Here’s the preview.