Gunner Boone (Lonnie Chavis) is 11 years old. He has a brilliant imagination but few friends. He’s spending his summer holidays exploring his new town on an electric scooter and writing a graphic novel about a detective investigating his own death. At home, Gunner’s mother, Mary (Rosario Dawson), is battling leukaemia and his father, Amos (David Oyelowo), is struggling to put his marine training aside to be a caring parent.
As his mother’s health declines, Gunner learns about the Water Man. This is a local legend about a ghostly, undead figure, who’s believed to hold the key to immortality. Gunner gathers information about the Water Man from the town’s eccentric undertaker (Alfred Molina) and also Jo (Amiah Miller), a street kid and probable grifter who claims to have met the Water Man. Then, with Jo’s help, Gunner makes his way into the forest hoping to find a way to save his mother.
Jo and Gunner’s journey through the spooky forest is filled with other-worldly events. Their friendship grows too, but it’s strained by the revelation that Jo’s connection to the Water Man might not be real.
Meanwhile, Amos discovers the disappearance of his son and jumps into action to find him before a wildfire reaches the children from the other side of the forest.
Cancer; grief and loss; death; natural disasters (floods and fires); children as victims (emotional and physical abuse)
The Water Man has some violence. For example, Jo wrestles Gunner to the ground. She wants to get him back for smacking her candy bar away.
There are no sexual references in The Water Man.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
The Water Man shows some use of substances, including when Gunner finds his mother’s morphine pills.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity or sexual activity in The Water Man.
The following products are displayed or used in The Water Man: Pringles, Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, and Apple iPods.
The Water Man has some coarse language, including ‘B.S.’, ‘crap’, ‘damn’ and ‘hell’.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Water Man is the directorial debut from David Oyelowo (who also stars). It tackles the difficult topics of loss, family disharmony, death and the things you need for a meaningful life. The strong direction and performances balance the simplicity of the story, resulting in a moving film about life and loss from a child’s perspective.
Because of its distressing themes and frightening sequences, The Water Man isn’t suitable for children under 10 years, and we recommend parental guidance for children aged 10-13 years. And if children have lived experience of cancer, family death, child abuse or natural disasters, this movie might not be suitable.
These are the main messages from The Water Man:
- A strong, open and honest parent-child relationship helps you through difficult experiences.
- Sharing a loving relationship with your family for a short time is better than having an unloving relationship with your family for a long time.
Values in The Water Man that you could reinforce with your children include honesty, courage and compassion.
The Water Man could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of things like:
- shoplifting – for example, Jo steals several candy bars from a store and warns Gunner against snitching on her
- running away from home – for example, Gunner runs away from home to find the Water Man and puts himself in danger as a result
- using swords, blades and knives – for example, Gunner takes his father’s decorative samurai sword to protect himself in the forest
- entering a stranger’s home – for example, Gunner doesn’t know the undertaker, but visits the undertaker’s home without his parents’ knowledge
- being racist – for example, Jo’s father suggests that his daughter shouldn’t be friends with Gunner because Gunner is African-American.