"Drowning In Sadness"
In THE WEIGHT OF WATER a reporter sails with her husband and friends to a local island to investigate a double murder that occurred in the 1870s. While tracking down the truth, the characters project modern-day amorality onto a devout Christian immigrant family turning it into a historically-revised story of religious repression and its violent fruit.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER is a powerful story of a modern day reporter-photographer trying to capture the details of the true-life murders of two women in 1873. Beautiful scenery and a haunting musical score enhance this look at the lives of two women from two very different centuries.
In the present-day portion, Jean, her husband and another couple travel on a small yacht to Smuttynose Island (one of several isolated and rocky islands off the coast of New Hampshire) to investigate the brutal 1873 murders of these Norwegian immigrants. During flashbacks, the audience learns about Maren, the sole survivor of the slayings, and her possible role in the killing.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER opens as the slayings of 1873 are discovered on a small rocky island occupied by only three women. The men of the island are out fishing and return in the morning to find young Maren (Sarah Polley) alive, her nightgown splattered with blood. She tells the men that a German immigrant named Louis, a recent boarder on the island, committed these horrific crimes. Louis is brought to trial, and Maren testifies against him. Louis appears to be a godly man and utters “Jesus loves me” while exclaiming his innocence. The audience is left feeling skeptical of his guilt, but it appears the man will be convicted solely on Maren’s testimony.
The movie flash-forwards to the present day and focuses on husband and wife, Thomas and Jean (Sean Penn and Catherine McCormack). They are about to sail, along with Thomas’ brother and his girlfriend, to explore this mysterious case. Through speculations and discussions by this group of four, the audience is subjected to witnessing the murders over and over again. While Jean becomes obsessed with research and discovering the truth, the brother’s girlfriend (Elizabeth Hurley) makes numerous passes at Thomas, a Pulitzer prize–winning poet. Clearly, Jean and Thomas’ marriage is indeed “on the rocks” and at a key turning point in their relationship.
Flashing back to the Norwegian immigrants, Maren’s exile to America is revealed. These openly Christian Norwegian people endure hardships and isolation. Their struggle to start new lives has few joys, and they find comfort in the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Maren is thrilled when her brother Evan moves to her home from the old country, but she is terribly disappointed when he also brings his new young wife. Maren, though married, feels increasingly isolated and must wrestle with her own emotions and pain. Louis, a German immigrant who is shown great kindness by Maren’s husband, attempts to seduce Maren. Louis may be a lecherous creep, but it is not likely that he is a killer.
The story jumps back and forth, and there are flashbacks within flashbacks as the lives of both time periods’ characters become more interesting. These are people who appear real and complex. Even beautiful and successful characters reveal their burdens, and a key to the story is how their private pains impact their lives.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER’s title is descriptive of the burdens everyone must carry. Unfortunately, even the Christians in this story are at a loss to know what to do with their pain. As Christian viewers, we understand that our deepest pains and feelings of isolation can be left at the foot of the cross of Christ.
Meanwhile, growing storms in both stories foreshadow impending disaster. Jean identifies with the pains Maren must have felt, and the stories cleverly collide (or possibly overlap) as hard truths are revealed to both characters. In the present story, as in real life, the storm brings out heroism and expressions of love as the frailty of life is revealed. Yet, not all will survive the frenzy of this storm.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER is a riveting tale, beautifully filmed and cleverly crafted by director Kathryn Bigelow. While occasionally slow, the tide-paced story rises to a climactic ending. Had the story merely juxtaposed early Christians living godly lives against modern characters adrift in an amoral world, the story would have received very high marks indeed. Regrettably, flashback images of a true-life event blur with the novel’s speculation and some modern-day revisionism which seems to argue that Christianity is repressive and, therefore, dangerous. Thus, the beautiful lives of these devout Christian immigrants are sullied with speculative portrayals of incest, lechery, repressed anger and rage, and a dose of implied homosexual tendencies. Sadly, THE WEIGHT OF WATER is two modern tales of immorality, and Christianity’s relevance is thrown overboard.
(PaPa, RH, O, B, CC, LL, VV, S, Ho, NN, AA, D, MM) Pagan and Christian worldviews juxtaposed in a revisionist manner as present-day reporter researches unsolved murders of 1870s, with ghost seen by drowning woman, wife professes love for husband during storm, Norwegian immigrant characters often reference God and faith, proclaim “Jesus loves me” while being jeered, shown praying, reading their Bible (alone and to others), chaplain reads Psalm 23 aloud to console condemned man, actual murderer seeks forgiveness and confesses, and murderer reminds audience that “In the darkest times, God will offer salvation”; 7 obscenities (including 3 ‘f-words”) and 3 profanities; brutal violence includes numerous flashbacks of murders being committed and bloody scenes, bodies shown with ax wounds and much blood, two women (and one of them pregnant) shown beaten, choked, and struck with ax, other violence includes innocent man being hanged for crimes, sounds of man attacking woman, woman drowning, people in peril and overboard in deadly storm, and repressed rage leads to murder; incest, implied homosexual desires, man tries to seduce married woman and they kiss, sensual massages shown in several scenes, woman touches clothes of fainted woman, sexual encounter overheard through walls, married couple in bed (rear male nudity shown), married couple kiss and begin to undress then get interrupted, two women in bed together (innocent but sexually charged scene), flashback of teenagers in bed (implied incest); nude sunbathing, upper female and rear male nudity shown, women in bikinis, and men in swimsuits; drinking; smoking; and, lying.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER tells a powerful story of a modern day reporter-photographer, Jean, trying to capture the details of the true-life murders of two Norwegian immigrant women in 1873. She travels with her husband and another couple on a yacht to Smuttynose Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, to investigate the brutal murders. During flashbacks, the role of Maren, the sole survivor of the slayings, in the killings is revealed.
THE WEIGHT OF WATER is a riveting tale, beautifully filmed and cleverly crafted. While occasionally slow, the tide-paced story rises to a climactic ending. Had the story merely juxtaposed early Christians living godly lives against modern characters adrift in an amoral world, the story would have received very high marks indeed. Unfortunately, flashback images of a true-life event blur with speculation, and some modern-day revisionism, which seems to argue that Christianity is repressive and, therefore, dangerous. Thus, the beautiful lives of these devout Christian immigrants are sullied with speculative portrayals of incest, lechery, repressed anger and rage, and a dose of implied homosexual tendencies. Sadly, THE WEIGHT OF WATER is two modern tales of immorality and Christianity’s relevance is thrown overboard