Jennifer Connelly as Dahlia
John C. Reilly as Mr. Murray
Tim Roth as Jeff Platzer
Dougray Scott as Kyle
Pete Postlethwaite as Veeck
Camryn Manheim as Teacher
Ariel Gade as Ceci
Perla Haney-Jardine as Natasha/Young Dahlia
The latest in the trend of Japanese horror film remakes, Dark Water is a nicely moody, but slightly uninteresting film, though it benefits from a darkly intelligent ending that surprisingly draws itself out to its logical conclusion in a way that most genre films shy away from.
In the middle of a bitter divorce, Dahlia (Jennifer Connelly) takes her daughter Ceci (Ariel Gade) away from the city to keep her away from her husband (Dougray Scott). Their new life soon turns into a nightmare as the ghost of a young girl (Perla Haney-Jardine) begins to force herself onto them.
Dark Water was adapted from a Hideo Nakata (Ringu, The Ring Two) and it contains several of his standard tropes: a restless child spirit, water as the moody element of the dead, the relationship between mother and child (and the sacrifices that relationship can entail). Director Walter Salles (Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries) has crafted a film primarily interested in character and mood. Most of the plot is relegated to the last third, making the film itself often feel very slow.
The character work is excellent throughout, from Connelly’s slow decent into madness, to the subtle textures applied to John C. Reilly’s slimy apartment building owner and Tim Roth’s earnest (and possibly homeless) lawyer. The supporting characters, in fact, are the most enjoyable part of the film, often more enjoyable than Connelly or Gade, each taking great advantage of their scenes to create real people in a short space of time. Salles and screenwriter Rafael Yglesias (From Hell) apply just enough nuance to simultaneously know and wonder who these people are. Roth in particular is a stand out.
Like the heroines of Nakata’s other films, Connelly spends most of the movie exploring Dahlia’s slide into desperation and madness, and she does it well. She doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to show other sides of Dahlia, making her often less interesting than the people around her. The climax is the saving grace of the film, where it turns a corner most films of this genre won’t, allowing the events of the film to reach their logical conclusion.
The darkness and slowness may drive audiences off, but Dark Water offers some very nice character performances for those willing to brave its depths.
Dark Water is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, frightening sequences, disturbing images and brief language.