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Weight of Water

The Weight of Water

3.5 2
Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: Catherine McCormack, Sarah Polley, Sean Penn


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A woman studying a crime of the past finds her own life becoming a morass of suspicion and deceit in this drama based on the novel by Anita Shreve. Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) is a photographer working on a project that would document surviving evidence of a multiple murder that occurred a hundred years ago -- when a man named Louis Wagner (Ciaran Hinds) brutally


A woman studying a crime of the past finds her own life becoming a morass of suspicion and deceit in this drama based on the novel by Anita Shreve. Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) is a photographer working on a project that would document surviving evidence of a multiple murder that occurred a hundred years ago -- when a man named Louis Wagner (Ciaran Hinds) brutally killed two immigrant women from Norway with an axe, only to discover a third, Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley), witnessed the mayhem and survived to identify him in court. Jean travels to the small New Hampshire coastal town where the killings occurred with her husband Thomas (Sean Penn), an award-winning poet; his brother Rich (Josh Lucas); and Rich's girlfriend Adaline (Elizabeth Hurley). As Jean digs deeper into the troubling facts of the long-ago murder, as well as the tangential details of Maren Honvedt's unhappy marriage to John Hontvedt (Ulrich Thomsen) and her incestuous affair with her brother Evan (Anders W. Berthelsen), Jean begins to believe that she has a crisis of her own to contend with: she is convinced Thomas is having an affair with Adaline. The Weight of Water also features Katrin Cartlidge as Maren's sister Karen and Vinessa Shaw as her sister-in-law Anethe.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
This gripping drama ambitiously intertwines two separate narratives, combining the investigation of a 19th-century "true crime" mystery with the unraveling of a contemporary marriage. The relationship of these seemingly disparate storylines drives The Weight of Water, an uncharacteristic film from Kathryn Bigelow (K-19: The Widowmaker), one of Hollywood's few female genre directors. It begins with photographer Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack), her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband (Sean Penn), her brother-in-law (Josh Lucas), and his new girlfriend (Elizabeth Hurley) visiting a remote island off the coast of Maine. Janes is researching the brutal 1873 murder of two Norwegian women -- a crime witnessed by fellow immigrant Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley), whose older sister was one of the victims. The Hontvedt story, told in flashback, is particularly absorbing because, under Bigelow's direction, Maren appears to be psychologically opaque; viewers might easily believe they know what she's thinking and yet be completely mistaken. Obviously, there's a great deal more to her than meets the eye, as both Janes and the home viewer will come to learn. The Alice Arlen-Christopher Kyle screenplay, quite faithful to the novel by Anita Shreve, is unusually dense and complicated; it eschews formula and defies audience expectations. Frankly, the material isn't always well served by such high-profile actors as Penn and Hurley, whose in-your-face performances are a bit overwhelming. But Bigelow, who has shown herself to be comfortable with male-dominated stories of action and conflict, directs with surprising restraint and turns in a compelling film that ranks among her best.
All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
Shelved for nearly two years after its premiere at the 2000 Toronto Film Festival, Kathryn Bigelow's adaptation of Anita Shreve's bestseller is indeed everything its detractors said it was: decadent, pretentious, and indulgent -- but in the best possible way. With its languid pace, natural-splendor backdrop, and supermodel cast, The Weight of Water recalls the sumptuous, ennui-laden films of Michelangelo Antonioni -- or, more specifically, the tony knock-offs that populated European cinema for most of the 1970s. What Bigelow manages to do with the material, however, is to drain it of the artificial "significance" that other filmmakers might have assigned it, whether through dumbed-down editing or clearly telegraphed dialogue. As it stands, The Weight of Water's parallel story lines remain just that; they never intersect in an obvious way. Themes of sex, death, and regret pop up in each time period, but the frissons between the troubled, taciturn women of the past and the licentious, self-obsessed characters of the present are never made completely apparent. Rather than feeling inconsequential, however, Weight is, well, weightier for what it doesn't spell out about the radically different sexual politics of the two eras, and about the unique psychological baggage prevalent in both.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Lions Gate
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; 16x9 widescreen; 5.1 Dolby Digital; Trailer; Scene access; Interactive menus; English & Spanish subtitles

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Catherine McCormack Jean Janes
Sarah Polley Maren Hontvedt
Sean Penn Thomas Janes
Josh Lucas Rich Janes
Elizabeth Hurley Adaline Gunne
Ciarán Hinds Louis Wagner
Ulrich Thomsen John Hontvedt
Anders W. Berthelsen Evan Christenson
Katrin Cartlidge Karen Christenson
Vinessa Shaw Anethe Christenson

Technical Credits
Kathryn Bigelow Director
Marit Allen Costumes/Costume Designer
Alice Arlen Screenwriter
Adrian Biddle Cinematographer
Mali Finn Casting
Lisa Henson Executive Producer
David Hirschfelder Score Composer
A. Kitman Ho Producer
Steven Charles Jaffe Executive Producer
Karl Juliusson Production Designer
Tod A. Maitland Sound/Sound Designer
Dennis L. Maitland Sound/Sound Designer
Mike Smith Sound Mixer
Mike Smith Sound Mixer
Sigurjon Sighvatsson Producer
Howard E. Smith Editor
David J. Webb Asst. Director
Janet Yang Producer
Christopher Zimmer Co-producer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Tragedy [4:45]
2. A Little Tired [4:55]
3. Two Women [4:29]
4. Great Themes [4:19]
5. Opportunity [4:35]
6. Industry [4:57]
7. Long Term [5:16]
8. Coming to America [5:05]
9. Strong Hands [5:13]
10. Right Guy [6:08]
11. Dance [6:04]
12. Statement [7:18]
13. So Good [4:30]
14. Time Away [4:56]
15. Poetry [4:08]
16. Ludicrous [4:35]
17. Fever [4:46]
18. Hang On [4:44]
19. Wind [2:27]
20. Take the Wheel [3:15]
21. Sorry [2:54]
22. Flee [5:06]
23. Total Knowledge [5:16]
24. Credits [4:19]


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3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say this movie is beautiful with outstanding performance, mostly by Catherine McCormack and Sarah Polley. However, the plot is slow moving and the ending of the modern day story leaves too many unanswered questions. Perhaps the book would provide a more enriching ending but since I have yet to read it I cannot be sure.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm absolutely shocked that the critical reaction to this movie has been so negative. I was overwhelmed by ‘The Weight of Water.’ I guess part of the problem is that the ad campaign seems to have presented it as a thriller, which it's not. It's also not a mystery or a love story. It's a slow-paced, decidedly downbeat look at two women who are trapped in loveless relationships. Basically, it consists of two parts, a modern-day part and a historical part, set in the 19th century. The 19th century part shows promise and actually gives a pretty interesting view of how a mysterious double murder took place, but ultimately it's underdeveloped and I’ll have to admit is a bit slow. However, compared to the modern-day part, the 19th century part is sort of Oscar material. But as you watch this film you will notice that the modern-day part seems to rely on two major things: Liz Hurley's breasts and some endlessly drawn out shots and quasi-philosophical conversations which really don’t have much of a storyline. Kathryn Bigelow's direction is masterful. She uses images and sounds to express the powerful passions which the two main characters feel but can't express themselves. She gets excellent performances out of the entire cast, but Sarah Polley is especially fine. I'm sure the fact that none of the characters are sympathetic (at least not in the usual sense) is one of the reasons people aren't responding to the film. Bigelow isn't telling a simple story here, and she doesn't want to manipulate the audience by trotting out the usual clichés. This is a complicated movie about how complicated love really is. I haven't read Anita Shreves's novel, but I'd like to. I imagine Bigelow was attracted to it because it offered a blunt, unsentimental look at relationships. ‘The Weight of Water’ is not a conventional Hollywood entertainment. If you're open to it, if you throw away your preconceptions, you may be surprised at where this film takes you.