Watching Katheryn Begelow picking up well deserved Oscar for Hurt Locker made me re-watch one of her decade early release ‘The Weight of Water’. I picked up that time for Sean Penn and I wasn’t too aware of Begelow until lately And it is certainly intriguing film meshed with two parallel stories effortlessly woven together each one having a woman as its principle character. First is a period piece which is more satisfying and gripping set in 1870 and woman is Maren played by mostly tight-lipped Sarah Polley on screen but narrating her story with voiceovers (standout performance). She is a housewife we reckon and sole survivor from the brutal murders of two women on island of shoals. A man is convicted of crime and hanged. Movie unfolds through fluid flashbacks how it lead it to stormy night when two women who happen to be Maren’s sister and sister-in-law were lynched.
Second one is set in current time and plays Maren’s counterpart Jean (Catherine McCormack). A photographer married to Pulitzer winner poet Thomas played by brooding and chain-smoking Sean Penn. Their marriage is on the rocks. Jean is assigned to do a story on the murders for her magazine. Couple decide to take a trip together with Thomas’s brother Rick who owns a boat can take them to the scene of crime island. Their hope of bringing failing marriage back on track is threatened by Rick’s sexy new girlfriend (Liz Hurley) onboard who sunbathes topless, sucks ice cubes and throws inviting glances at Thomas. This gives movie its jealous streak which sort of binds the two stories thematically. Wine, desire and poetry (Sean Penn quotes Dylan Thomas) fills the screen while Jean investigates the first story of Maren where everything is not what it seems. The layers of passion and violence surface where two plots sort of converge though a stormy night. Weight of Water is triumph of atmosphere, mood and background score. Bigelow creates the sexual tension in these stories of lust, love, longing and explores this intrigue and repression beautifully until its bit of unsatisfying closure.