the weight of water(2000)
director: kathryn bigelow
sean penn, elizabeth hurley, catherine mccormack, sarah polley

. From the moment we see Jean and Thomas, we know they’re doomed. In fact, everything about director Kathryn Bigelow’s new film, The Weight of Water, from the awkward glances and body language of the actors to the camera work, all darting close-ups and dense blue overcast, signals that we’re all in for a rough ride, quite literally.

Jean, played by Catherine McCormack, is a photojournalist working on a story about a brutal murder on a New Hampshire island over a century ago. Sean Penn plays Thomas, her husband, a Pulitzer-winning poet whose brother, played by Josh Lucas, has offered to sail them over to the island on his boat, accompanied by his luscious, flirtatious girlfriend, the inevitable Liz Hurley.

Once on the island, Jean eerily connects with the tale of the murders in a series of flashbacks that manage to be even more portentous than the modern storyline. At the same time, her husband is connecting with his brother’s girlfriend through a series of furtive glances and lingering stares. In the background, the soundtrack keens and moans, while in the audience, we’re either writhing in anticipation or rolling our eyes at the obviousness of it all.

The grim outcomes of both storylines are no surprise, and the tone of the whole experience has a feeling of barely controlled hysteria. Sarah Polley, as the lone survivor of the long-ago island murders, is the most vivid of all the characters in both stories, and the only one that’s allowed a moment free of the torment that everyone else is obliged to suffer.