Dark Water (2005): Unrated

2005_dark_water_wallpaper_0I must say I don’t know what I was expecting from “Dark Water” ultimately. I know it wasn’t supposed to be horror, I know it’s technically not horror at all, but it was marketed as such, and thankfully not a lot of audiences fell for it. I know it’s a remake I’ve yet to see as well. Now, with “Dark Water” I was surprised that I liked it. I didn’t love it, and it’s far from perfect, but there were certain, or many aspects within its story and characterization that just clicked with me. It’s a pretty heartbreaking supernatural drama that really examines not only the bond between a mother and a daughter, but how easily children can fall through the cracks in adults own self-centered pursuits and problems.

Dahlia is a troubled woman who has just gotten off a bad divorce and is now in a bitter custody battle with her husband (Dougray Scott). She has her daughter Ceci at the moment and they just moved in to the inner city in a run down building complex. Unlike most conventional Hollywood fare, these two people actually are poor, they look poor. Connelly’s character is always somewhat messy, and the building they move in to actually looks dilapidated and grimy. These buildings are just the type of buildings poor people live in. As someone who was once impoverished, the set designer really gets it right. Ghettos and slums are run down, and a harmful environment, and it’s just what’s depicted here. The building is cramped, stained, and just dingy. Dahlia and Ceci move in and seem content with their surroundings… except for that damn leak. Which ends up as some supernatural sign as the days pass. Now, as Dahlia becomes more involved she attempts to unfold the mystery of the leak.

What this remake really captures it the genuine emotions behind its characters. Scotts character, though troubled as well, really seems desperate to bring back his daughter from the emotionally unstable Dahlia; Dahlia is a troubled woman who has suffered immense childhood traumas and the random occurrences and leaky ceiling, and her daughter’s  imaginary friend she begins to suspect is her husband attempting to push her over the edge so he can get Ceci. John C. Reilly has a very good role as a two-faced typical real estate agent and really does play a big role in the climax. While “Dark Water” is far from scary or creepy, it is very fascinating, particularly because Ceci and Dahlia’s relationship is  engrossing to watch.

Dahlia is aware of her psychological problems but clings to Ceci and anxiously attempts to keep up with her changing life while making adjustments all her own. Their scenes together make for some of the more compelling moments of the film because Arial Gade who plays Ceci is adorable and gives a very bittersweet and nuanced performance. Though I basically liked “Dark Water” it’s not without its flaws. I’ll forgive it being marketed as a horror film when really it’s just another supernatural drama much like “The Village” was, but in spite of that, it’s a truly slow paced and lagging offering with a story that really doesn’t get anywhere at least until the second half of the film, and before then it really just feels like a lot of build-up for a big bang that never comes to the audience.

Much of what happens feels disjointed with story elements thrown our way from every corner that are never resolved and seems to want to come together to sum up the climax, but nothing is ever really as fleshed out as it can be. The husband conspiracy angle should have been played much stronger with the audience guessing what was going on instead of keeping us thinking Dahlia was just insane, and then there’s Dahlia’s sub-plot with her own mother which was never as flesh out as it could have been, or should have been, and I’m still trying to figure out if the landlord Veeck had something to do with the big mystery in apartment 10F or not. It was never really verified for the audience, meanwhile we’re never told if the ghost wants Ceci as a friend figuring they’d live there forever, or if she was simply trying to take her place to get close to Dahlia, and they never tell us if the ghost was a good spirit or an angry spirit.

Along with all of the disjointed plot elements, there are the performances. Tim Roth’s role is really just utilitarian as a lawyer who tries to help out Dahlia as best he can. His role really just requires he spout law lingo and try to help Dahlia ala “The Entity”. He even tries to become a very strong Ron Silver presence, but his character really just comes off half-assed. He seems to like Dahlia, but that’s never resolved, he seems to be lonely, but that’s never resolved, while Dougray Scott is wasted in a forgettable role as the husband. While his character is better fleshed out, he never does enough to become a reasonable threat to Dahlia where we suspect he may be trying to sabotage their life for his own pursuit towards Ceci. Sadly though, Jennifer Connelly’s performance could have been much better. For such a talented actress it was sad watching her weak performance with a very unconvincing portrayal of this troubled woman desperate to find out what’s happening around her.

Connelly never really did seem emotionally invested in her role and really just seemed bore in what she was doing most of the time. It’s sad to see the person headlining this ended up pulling in the weakest performance. “Dark Water” evolves from a supernatural mystery to a truly sad tragedy that ends with a very heart-breaking climax that I was satisfied with. Granted, it won’t win awards, but I really enjoyed what it had to offer. In spite of its disjointed plot, weak lead performance, and under-developed supporting characters, I still thought “Dark Water” was entertaining in the end. With a sad story, and a unique concept, “Dark Water” is a fascinating supernatural drama.