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on February 23, 2001
It is one of those rare moments in life, when you go to a movie theatre, and just purchase a ticket for the next-best movie, not knowing (or caring) what it is about. In one particular case, this was "Waterland", and the money felt well-spent. The original novel the film is based on is set in England. Incomprehensible as it may seem to some to change the setting to a place in the USA for those parts that describe the adult life of that frustrated and unhappy history teacher, it gives the story added depth. The angle from which the movie develops the plot (a teacher, exiled in the US if you will, is challenged from all sides to defend the value of history) is compelling since it unravels most beautifully and emotionally the teacher's own involvement with it. I do not want to give away what the story twists are, go into the film as I did. But the way the movie uses two different time lines to tell the whole story, and interweaves them artfully, is brillant. Jeremy Irons (I actually did not know him at the time, believe it or not) is most fitting as the main character. Ethan Hawke, well I guess they had to pick somebode to play a rebellious pupil, is not bad, but his performance does not contol the movie. Sinead Cusack, on the other hand, plays so convincingly the part of the teacher's wife, still hunted by the common past, that this role is sort of stuck to her in my view.
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on December 20, 2000
i wonder why this movie hasn't had the appreciation i think it deserves. it is beautifully shot and has a devastating story of guilt, love, redemption and a couple other underlying themes that i'm sure i forgot. oh my god, and i'm telling you the ending will send your eyes to niagra falls. totally satisfies my depressed movie jones. love this!
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on December 5, 2005
I found this movie on IFC late last night and remembered the lasting effects it had on me when it first came out. Irons plays a Pittsburgh history teacher who escapes his crumbling marriage by weaving tales of his family history into his school lessons, he and the students literally walking into WWI veteran hospitals and his childhood home of the English Fens. Irons brings a fragile power to the professor knowing his day his done, his final speech to the school, accompanied by the somber score, incredibly moving. His real life wife Sinead Cusack plays his spouse, ravaged by some dark secret. Though she overdoes the wailing a bit, only Dick Cheney could be unmoved by the closing scenes. See it if only for Irons' gulping smoke rings scene in the bar with Ethan Hawke - the great tortured actor of our era, in one of his best.
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on August 23, 1999
I saw the film before I read the book, which I loved, along with every other book by Graham Swift. My initial impression of the film, seen in the cinema, was good enough to want to read the book but I wasn't overwhelmed by either the narrative or the cinematic style. However, I recently bought the DVD version (released in Hong Kong) and this time was bowled over by how good Jeremy Irons was (by far his best performance), how faithful the film was to the spirit of the book and just how well the director's style had represented it. I was also far more overwhelmed than I was originally by the painful but, I thought, positive and optimistic ending, which had me in tears. That could be because I'd experienced similar pains and accommodations since first seeing the film, but I also think that like so many fine things "Waterland" has improved with age. If you enjoyed "Waterland" then get hold of Swift's "Ever After" and "Closing Time" (which I understand is about to be filmed). You won't be disappointed.
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on October 23, 1999
I believe this underrated movie is one of the best of this decade. Irons could not be any better--not that I've ever seen him in a bad performance. The movie follows its own unconventional path. It journeys back in time into the lives of the protagonists and Irons' character's family. The cinemaphotography is quite good and the physical settings in the "moors" are very beautiful. Lena Headey plays her character quite well--in addition to being gorgeous. All of the actors in the movie are very good.
The movie covers the whole gamut of the dark side of life: murder, incest, lust, jealousy, abortion, etc. It's not a smiley, feel good piece of Hollywood fluff. You will not like this movie if that's what you're looking for. But if you're looking for a movie that has something to say about the human condition in an honest and moving way--this is a good bet.
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on December 4, 1998
My father and I saw this moview together many years ago and we came out stunned. While my father found it depressing, I insist it is not. The story is wrenching but worthwile for the expansive sense of unity and catharthis at the end. The story deals with the tragic consequences of alcoholism, incest, lack of sex-ed, pre-marital sex and illegal/unsafe abortions. Heavy, but an incredible movie.
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on August 11, 2007
This is an incredible movie from director Stephen Gyllenhaal, father of Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal. The movie is viewable and enjoyble on multiple layers and from multiple contexts. Some of us don't understand language, and some of us are not drawn to learn to understand language, until we are attracted to someone who is on the other side of a river's shore, someone beckoning us to speak. And when we can't find the words, or when we don't know the words, we instinctively fall underwater toward the object of our attraction - sometimes not able to consider much of anything else besides them.

The movie touches on these themes: Without education, our misunderstandings can drive us to harm ourselves and others. Most monsters don't know they are monsters. Most evil is done under flawed justifications of good. Our definitions of self, religion, justice, ideals, and morality can warp or refine our actions.

The movie addresses these univeral and important questions: How do you forgive yourself after you may have contributed to the death of someone you loved? How do you forgive your past selves? How can you stop the cycle of abandonment after you've been abandoned? How do you not abandon yourself?

I was never very interested in history as it was taught to me in school, because the histories I was taught avoided controversies. They proclaimed the "one true interpretation of the past." They were watered down stories that didn't tell us many of the key things that really happened.

Histories that are worth learning, remembering & discussing are often the histories polite society doesn't discuss.

The lead character, a teacher, frustratingly asks his student, "Bloody Hell Price! Why do you make all that extra effort for mathematics and nothing for history?"
His student replies, "'Cuz math makes sense."

I personally lost a muse once. "And that day I discovered there are many ways the world can end. As many ways as there are people."

As a muse, she started ideas in motion in me, reasoning frameworks that began to make sense of so many of our worlds' crazy histories. "In one life, there can be more than one ending. It's been like that in mine."

The movie suggests: We may benefit by not believing in any stories that are dependent on falsehoods or omissions. To start on a path to recovery: First, find ways to forgive yourself. Never abandon yourself. And even if you don't think you deserve forgiveness, move on because if you can't move on, you may do more harm to yourself and others. And move on because that may be the only way to continue to benefit yourself and others.
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on December 21, 2010
How bad, how lost a history teacher is Tom Crick (Irons)? So bad that the only time he has his class's attention is when he's teaching the French Revolution -- because of guillotines! And even then he has to milk it, which Irons does beautifully.
Two films I have been engrossed by on PBS while having started watching something else. One was Waterland, kept flipping back to it and eventually didn't turn back to whatever else I was watching, and the second was Cream in Your Coffee, I think it was, by the brilliant deceased Dennis Potter (Singing Detective). The reason, the writing. (In the case of Waterland, based on the stellar book.)
How much our childhood memories are our most dear and memorable is conveyed beautifully in this film. Despite the horrendous incident in their early lives, still it is the time they long for.
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on April 19, 1999
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on April 10, 2015
Unfortunately, on ordering the DVD, I should've stated that subtitles (either in English, or Portuguese) were essential, having in view that I usually find it difficult to follow the audio being a non-native speaker of English).
As for the shipping I was fully satisfied as it arrived before the expected time.
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