I watched The Weight of Water because it has Sean Penn in it, who as a generality never fails to make any film interesting, but alas in this one he wasn't that interesting.
The "axe murderer" tale is set partly in the present, partly in the past. The modern story focuses around a depressed poet played by Penn, trying to act his way out of some of the most pretentious bullshit lines ever imposed on a great actor.
It's a mainly a soap opera story, with one of the characters researching a famous axe murder justifying the flash-backs to an earlier time.
The period tale is much more interesting & the film could've been pretty good without the modern element included at all. The axe murder is shown in very graphic ways from different angles as many times as director Kathryn "Near Dark" Bigelow could justify, which is almost enough to qualify it as a slasher film, though otherwise this is a serious-minded period mystery with some good acting.
The "mainstream" audience for this film must've been shocked by the grotesque bits from Kathryn's horror film heritage, but it'll probably seem too darned tasteful to anyone used to the slasher aesthetic. The best performance is by Sarah Polley who is also pretty darned good in gritty costume drama called The Claim (2000) which is one of Michael Winterbottom's two or three best films, Butterfly Kiss (1995) being my favorite, with a wondrous gothy psycho performance by Amanda Plummer who I have always had a crush on.
Anyhow, I can't say I liked this film, it took over half an hour for me to start caring about the characters in the period slasher, & I never did give a shit about the modern-day romance characters. I sure never imagined I'd like Sarah Polley better than Sean Penn in something, but Sean shouldn't waste his time in pompous roles that demand him to don a long sad face & spew lines from Dylan Thomas in lieu of character-dialogue. It did end with a ghostly sequence in the sea, so I wasn't sorry I perservered.
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