“The Water Man” (2020) is an American drama about a teenage boy finds out that the legends of a local immortal may turn out to be more than just legend so goes off to find this creature in one last ditch effort to cure his dying mom.
Gunner (Lonnie Chavis) is a creative young teenager who spends all of his free time reading voraciously and working on his graphic novel. He has a deep connection with his mom, Mary (Rosario Dawson) whom we soon find out is dying of leukemia. His dad, Amos (David Oyelowo) is just back from being deployed overseas and he’s having a hard time reconnecting with his son. Part of that is they all recently moved to this little town and can’t get settled quite yet. Part of that is caused by him being more stern and standoffish and part of it is that Gunner feels his father, like all adults, are writing off the chance of his mother surviving her cancer. Actually it wasn’t until recently that Gunner even knew how sick his mom was. That’s when he stops reading all of his favorite fictions and does deep research on leukemia to see if he can cure his mom, thanks to the help of the local bookstore owner he recently friended who “lends” him all the books he can read.
One of those books is an old medical text from the local undertaker. In it there is a page of hand written notes about “The Water Man”. That local legend’s name Gunner heard before from a girl selling her story about her encounter with the Water Man to any kid who would pay her. In the book he sees him described as having immortality and the ability to heal people and bring people back from the dead. Seeing this as his last hope to help his mom he seeks out the undertaker to learn all he can about this local immortal. The next day he rides his powered scooter over to the undertaker’s house. The undertaker, Jim, (Alfred Molina) thinks it’s yet another kid prank at first but finally lets him in. Gunner wants to know all the details about the legend, but he is told that it was no legend. In fact Jim has spent decades searching for him, hanging obsidian throughout the forest in places where he’s searched.
That night Gunner wakes up from a nightmare about his mom. He heads down the hallway quietly calling out for her when he stumbles on her getting ready to take a shower in the bathroom. He sees here without her hat on and sees she is totally bald and gaunt. He freaks out and decides then and there he has to find the real Water Man who will save him. Taking the map that Jim gave him, his dad’s souvenir samurai sword, and his backpack he heads off into the woods. First stop is to find the girl, Jo (Amiah Miller), who he knows has encountered him and has the scar to prove it. They then go off into the woods together, her for a fee and him out of passion, to find the Water Man and bring back to heal his mom. This ends up being a fools errand and exposing them to grave danger of a local forest fire that is growing out of control. The end result was not him saving his mom with the Water Man’s special powers but his father helping to save him, even though Gunner did reach the cabin where the Water Man must live.
The advantage of going to every first run movie out there is I don’t do much research of these movies. Some times I don’t know anything besides the title of the film. In this case I just had the description from the AMC app. I thought I was getting ready to see a horror/suspense type movie. Instead this is more like a non-comedy version of Goonies. In Goonies the kids traipse off to save their parent’s property by following the map to mythical One-Eyed Willy’s treasure keep. In this Gunner and Jo traipse off into the woods to save his mom with the powers of the mythical Water Man. The question we have is if the Water Man is real. Kids and most adults treat it like a ghost story but this undertaker, Jim, treats it very seriously. Is he just one of those off kilter guys that believe in Big Foot or is this legit?
The whole movie leaves us wondering that throughout, which helps make this more engaging. Not knowing if there was magic in this universe I initially couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be a real creature or not. Even after I had assumed that it was probably just a fool’s errand the director played with my head. Yeah there is no Water Man but then when Gunner is spooked at night in the woods something seems to be moving in front of the camera or in the background, but Gunner is always looking in the wrong direction. Jo seems to be making up some wild story about these wild horses but then sure enough they are almost run over by a stampede of wild horses the next day. At the same time the director gives us clues that Gunner is seeing what he wants to see in everything. Ash falling from the local forest fire that they aren’t aware of they perceive as snow. Yes visually that would look like snow but in the real world it would quickly be determined it was definitely not snow, even by a teenager. When we get to the Waterman’s Cabin on the lake, which Gunner found through satellite imagery, it just looks like an abandoned fishing cabin. That is, it seemed abandoned until a creature enters and we finally determine if this is a man of myth, reality, or a combination of both. I really liked being jerked into and out of wondering if the kid was just delusional or if he was one of the few true believers of this actually real magical being.
The acting I found solid throughout. I do not know how kids can act so well so fast but Chavis pulls it off better than most adult actors. The rest of the cast were great as well. Overall I liked it and found it engaging. I’m rating it 7/10.