The Weight of Water

The Weight of Water slumps under the weight of its loose, and not entirely convincing connection of two stories.

Genre(s): Drama, Mystery

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Actors: Katrin Cartlidge, Ciarán Hinds, Elizabeth Hurley, Josh Lucas, Catherine McCormack, Sean Penn, Sarah Polley, Vinessa Shaw, Ulrich Thomsen

Year: 2000

MPAA Rating: R

Country: United States

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I mentioned this film casually to some guys at work, and all of them—*ALL* of them—perked up when I described a scene where Elizabeth Hurley, clad only in bikini bottoms and stretched out on a sailboat deck, takes an ice cube from her mouth, rubs it down the length of her glistening body, then pops it back into her mouth… then does it AGAIN. All the guys said, “Wait… what was the name of this movie? Where can I rent it?”

If you found the previous scene description titillating, by all means, rent The Weight of Water. For the rest of you, no need to rush. The film has its moments, and it really isn’t all that bad, but it isn’t groundbreaking.

Split into two stories, a historical murder mystery, and a modern sexual-tension filled drama, The Weight of Water certainly looks great, Ms. Hurley notwithstanding. In the late 1800’s, off the coast of New Hampshire in the Isles of Shoals, two Norwegian immigrant women were murdered and a German man was convicted and hung for the crime. It was the testimony of a young woman named Maren (Sarah Polley, with a bizarre non-Scandinavian accent), who escaped the scene where her sister and sister-in-law were killed, that convicted the accused man (Ciarán Hinds).

In the modern tale, photographer Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) has hauled along her famous poet-husband Thomas (Sean Penn) on a quest to re-open the murder case and return to the scene of the crime. Joined by Thomas’ brother Rich, along with Rich’s new squeeze Adaline (Elizabeth Hurley), the four pretty people take a fancy yacht to the islands. Of course there is sexual tension galore, not only because of Adaline’s ice-cube rubbing, but because of the fact that the Janes’ marriage is notably unstable.

Truths are uncovered, and drama heightens within both stories (the film flip-flops between the two tales). The parallels between the stories are a bit weak—the only similarity they seem to have is the location (the rocky coasts and windswept coves of the islands look great, by the way). By the time the film reaches the climax in both tales, you’ve already pretty much figured out what was going to happen long before.

With the exception of Liz Hurley, whom I’ve always thought has had a career based solely on celebrity and looks as opposed to talent, the cast of The Weight of Water is quite good, especially Catherine McCormack and Sean Penn. Even characters with little screen time, like that of Maren’s doomed sister Karen (the wonderful much-missed Katrin Cartlidge, who nails a Danish accent, despite her character being Norwegian), hold up quite well. The acting rises above the plot and script, making The Weight of Water not entirely a waste of time… with or without ice cubes, depending on your personal interests.

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