Dark Water is no Ring or The Grudge. The remake parades as a genre picture, but its strength lies within the characters, story and superior direction. Besides a few disturbing images, the film is more of an intimate, thought-out drama than a mediocre blood fest.
Jennifer Connelly has a knack for playing fragile female leads, and in Dark Water she outdoes herself. The film never strays from its focus: a mother and daughter starting over. The movie is an antidote to all the pathetic summer films crowding theaters, as it is both entertaining and smart.
Dahlia (Connelly) and her daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade), are in the midst of a custody battle that forces the two to move into a rundown apartment. At first, everything seems normal and peaceful for the pair.
However, Dahlia is still plagued by hallucinations of her past, and her damaged relationship with her mother is threatening to tear her family apart. The hatred Dahlia feels for her mother hinders her emotionally, but she attempts to hide it in an effort to give Ceci the childhood she never had.
Meanwhile, Kyle (Dougray Scott) claims Dahlia is an unfit mother in an effort to gain full custody of their daughter. Slowly Dahlia begins to unhinge as the abandoned apartment above her overflows with water and leaks through her ceiling. The migraines she has been dealing with become more severe and a feeling of isolation engulfs her.
Water Salles does a spectacular job of taking the source material and making it into an end product that is more than the typical PG-13 horror fodder. For someone who’s played out of the Hollywood game, he has a clear understanding of what American audiences are looking for.
John C. Reilly is fantastic as Mr. Murray, the cheapskate landlord. Tim Roth does well in a limited but pivotal role as Jeff Platzer, Dahlia’s lawyer. Their performances illuminate the screen and offer bits of humor to keep the film moving.
In the same vein as her roles in Requiem for a Dream and House of Sand and Fog, Connelly makes depression look so easy. She paints her character with a healthy coat of emotions that pop right out of the screen.
Music and cinematography propel the movie from scene to scene, and the dreary, rainy backdrop of the city lends to the story.
While most foreign remakes fail to transcend the language barrier, Dark Water does so seamlessly.
Horror, PG-13, Running time: 102 min.