Dark Water (2005)
dark water | walter salles | rafael yglesias | jennifer connelly | ariel gade | john c. reilly | drama | mystery | united states | ghost | haunted | haunted house | remake | based on | novel | koji suzuki | tim roth | pete postlethwaite | dougray scott | camryn manheim
Film: Dark Water
Director: Walter Salles
Writer: Rafael Yglesias
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ariel Gade and John C. Reilly
This is a movie that I watched ahead of seeing the original Japanese version. I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for this one that first time around. It is odd though since I tend to like these type of ghost stories. I mean that for the original ones from Asia as well as their American remakes. This was that era where we got quite a bit of these. Something that ticked boxes for me was having a cast featuring Jennifer Connelly, John C. Reilly and Tim Roth.
Synopsis: a mother and daughter, still wounded from a bitter custody dispute, hole up in a run-down apartment building, where they are targeted by the ghost of a former resident.
For this, we start with seeing our lead of Dahlia when she was a little girl. This version is played by Perla Haney-Jardine. What I will say is that her mother was neglectful. If memory serves, her father passed away and it made her mother, played by Elina Löwensohn, bitter. She was an alcoholic as well. Her upbringing forced Dahlia to grow up faster than she should.
It then shifts to the present in New York City. Dahlia is now Connelly. She was married to Kyle (Dougray Scott). We see that Dahlia is a bit of a pushover where he is more aggressive. It seems that he cheated on her, which lead to them being where they are. Kyle wants Dahlia and their daughter, Ceci (Ariel Gade) to move to Jersey City. Dahlia accuses him of moving there to be close to his new girlfriend. Dahlia instead wants to move to an island that is considered to be just outside of NYC.
Finding a spot is tough in the city. It is expensive and Dahlia can’t afford it. The first place in their price range is rough. Mr. Murray (Reilly) shows it to them. At first, Ceci doesn’t like the place. There seems to be a ghostly presence and this changes this young girl’s mind. They move in.
The building is old and falling apart. The super is Veeck (Pete Postlethwaite) and he is doing what he can to keep it together. There is a nearby school that is nice, but when Ceci starts to show odd behavior, Kyle sees a chance to get custody. This causes Dahlia to meet Jeff Platzer (Roth) who is a lawyer that wants to help.
There is also odds things happening above their apartment that cause a large leak through the ceiling. As the synopsis said, this leads Ceci to have an imaginary friend named Natasha (Haney-Jardine). They are they experiencing something supernatural or is this divorce effecting everyone in the negative?
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is bringing up something that I learned through a podcast about the original version. It appears that in the Asian culture, there are a good number of mothers that are in this position. I didn’t know about this and that made sense there. To parley that to this version, it is common enough to have a broken family like this in America as well. I feel bad for Ceci as she is being torn between her parents who can’t see eye to eye. They also don’t want to for most of this as that could be considered a win for the other side. I like the commentary here of needing to put the daughter first since they aren’t. This shifts me over to something else I like that deals with Natasha.
Before I fully get into that, Dahlia had a similar upbringing to Ceci. I do believe that her dad died and her mother fell apart. She also blamed Dahlia. This is showing the cycle that Dahlia is trying to break. Since she had a rough homelife and she is fighting to prevent that for Ceci. I do like the realization that Dahlia comes to here. There is also Natasha as I was saying as well. I’m not going to spoil, but let’s just say that her parents abandoned her. There is a section of this that you don’t know if she is a ghost or if she is still alive there. I feel like we know as the viewer, but the characters question. Something happens with Dahlia in the elevator when she is seeing the building as an alert to the viewers. I’m getting long-winded here to say that I like seeing the parallels between Natasha, Ceci and young Dahlia.
Now I do want to shift over to a negative though. This movie gets away from the ghostly aspects for a majority of the runtime. It makes for an interesting dynamic. Are we seeing Ceci act out? Her parents aren’t treating each other good and they’re fighting. They don’t live together anymore, but children can feel that. My parents separated for a stretch growing up before getting back together. I remember it, but things were fine in the long run for my sister and I. You can still feel that tension. I don’t mind doing this, but if you are coming in for more of a ghostly that isn’t the case. It is more on the backburner there for the family drama things.
Before I get away from the story, there is one other aspect I wanted to delve into and it goes back to Dahlia being a single parent. She is being taken advantage of. She doesn’t have a lot of money so this apartment is all she can afford. Mr. Murray is cheap and taking advantage of Veeck to fix things. He only allows things to happen when he is forced. That is one thing I like about Jeff getting introduced. He is the only one fighting for Dahlia. I will also give credit to Camryn Manheim as she plays Ceci’s teacher. She is trying to help alleviate stress where she can. Her concern is still for Ceci though. I take the dangers of capitalism here with how bad things are for Dahlia and in turn, Ceci.
That will then take me to the acting. I thought that Connelly was great for the role. She is beautiful, but there is a sadness she is able to convey. It works well. Reilly adds a bit of levity while also being this scumbag property owner. Roth is solid. He shows up late but adds a good element. He’s one of the few fighting for Dahlia. Scott is fine as the ex-husband. He’s not a villain per say and I see his side wanting to be close to his daughter. Due to how him and his wife ended, he comes off as aggressive. Postlethwaite is great as Veeck. I thought that Gade and Haney-Jardine are good as the children here. I’d say that Manheim and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed as well.
The only other things would be with the filmmaking. I thought that the cinematography was good. The best part of this is that it is always raining. For how rough the lives of Dahlia and Ceci are, the dreariness that comes with it fits. I did enjoy that actually. It also doesn’t stop raining or being overcast until the end, which works for the story arch. We also have how rundown this apartment is. It is a step up from being disgusting. The leak in the ceiling is good. I love the overflowing water look in the apartment upstairs. That’s a good touch. I’ll shift this over to the effects, which we don’t get a lot of them. There is a touch of CGI, but I’m fine with it. It is done subtle. Other than that, I’d say that the soundtrack fit for what was needed.
In conclusion, this is a movie that I should like more, but I struggle. We get a good story and concept with commentary under it. That is my wheelhouse. I think that we have a good cast that is led by Connelly. The look of the movie is dreary which also fits. There is also nothing wrong with the CGI. What my issue is that it focuses a bit too much of the family drama and seems to ignore the ghostly aspect for too long. I like how things play out, I will say that. This isn’t a bad made film, but it just misses the mark for me.
My Rating: 7 out of 10