High school teacher Jeremy Irons walks his students through the physical and emotional landscapes of his troubled life in Waterland, a talented but terminally parched piece of literary cinema [from the novel by Graham Swift].
This twisted, inbred yarn is not the sort of thing normally associated with British accents, scarfed pipe-smokers and memory flashbacks. At heart, tale is a Southern gothic of sordid family secrets.
Seeing that his Pittsburgh students find little relevance in his lectures about the French Revolution, teacher Tom Crick (Irons) begins telling them about his own upbringing in the odd area called the Fens, bleak, flat marshlands in East Anglia on the North Sea.
At 16, he and his sweetheart Mary used to have feverish sex in private train compartments. Mary in the present is a barren woman in her 40s with a pathological desire for a child, someone clearly off the deep end who finally kidnaps a baby, insisting, ‘I got him from God.’
Irons does his best to carry the project through thick and thin, but he can’t entirely break through its fundamental reediness. As his wife, Irons’ real-life mate Sinead Cusack seems utterly possessed.