Waterland (1992)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Based on the novel by Graham Swift, this drama follows the past and present crises of schoolteacher Tom Crick (Jeremy Irons), who attempts to resolve the problems in his own life and the apathy of his students by relating stories of his troubled childhood in the English Fens (a marshy region in Britain).
Drama , Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

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Jeremy Irons
as Tom Crick
Ethan Hawke
as Matthew Price
John Heard
as Scott
Cara Buono
as Judy
Grant Warnock
as Young Tom
Lena Headey
as Young Mary
Pete Postlethwaite
as Henry Crick
Callum Dixon
as Freddie Parr
Ross McCall
as Terry
Maggie Gyllenhaal
as Maggie Ruth
Stewart Richman
as Ernest Atkinson
Siri Neal
as Helen Atkinson
Gareth Thomas
as Publican
Susannah Fellows
as Rebecca Scott
Colin Bruce
as Guest at Dinner Party
Kate Harper
as Guest at Dinner Party
Bradley Lavelle
as Guest at Dinner Party
Jana Sheldon
as Guest at Dinner Party
Scott Children
as Guest at Dinner Party
Alesh Hlozek
as Guest at Dinner Party
Kimberley Lakey
as Guest at Dinner Party
Tessa Wilkins
as Guest at Dinner Party
Tony Vogel
as Stan Booth
Paul Haigh
as RAF Man 1
Giles Thomas
as RAF Man 2
Larry John Meyers
as Senior Police Officer
Tina Benko
as Baby's mother
Rohn Thomas
as Barman
Matyelok Gibbs
as Martha Clay
Miguel Montalvo
as Stephen Bates
Alison Everns
as Alison
Kalvin Palmer
as Marshall
Stephanie Anderson
as Other Pupil
Fernando Cassas
as Other Pupil
Jeff Hoffman
as Other Pupil
J. Michael Hunter
as Other Pupil
Anne Kilpack
as Other Pupil
Sara Ittmann
as Other Pupil
Ron Thomas
as Barman
Nadia Siraj
as Other Pupil
Josh Wheaton
as Other Pupil
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Critic Reviews for Waterland

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (6)

A talented but terminally parched piece of literary cinema.

Full Review… | February 22, 2012
Top Critic

It's a brave endeavour, held together by Robert Elswit's poetic photography, and by Irons' authoritative impression of the crumbling desperation behind the chalk-dusted facade of a pensive history man.

Full Review… | January 25, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

With a dazed, frightened expression and the keen sense that his life is coming undone, Mr. Irons's Tom becomes a rivetingly sad figure, and a sharp focus for the film's many reveries.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Swift's elegant, descriptive phrases coexist inelegantly with classroom vulgarisms. And there almost making it all work as a portrait in despondency and realization is Irons, a walking requiem to lost innocence.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

The strange fact about "Waterland" is the way the performances and the dialogue are worthier than the story itself.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The adaptation doesn't quite hold. But in this flashback narrative, set in England's beautiful eastern wetlands, there are many passages of filmic -- and geographic -- beauty.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Waterland

Based on the novel by Graham Swift - a wonderful British author - Waterland tells the story of a history teacher who tells his students as much about himself as he does history. What is strong about the novel is what is weak about the film. The novel explores a post-modern conception of history that suggests we get stuck in these endless spirals of ironic happenstance, and in order to understand it all, we must go back, and in order to understand what we see when we go back, we must go back farther and farther. There's a little bit of this in the film, but certainly not enough for the audience to understand Swift's point. Instead of a complex exploration of post-modern theory and history, we're left with a fairly basic film about a man dealing with the events of his childhood. And how does that story fair? Not badly. It has its moments of affecting drama, both in the present and the past, but it's devoid of any grand significance. Additionally, the ending is too intentionally vague. We're given to understand certain conclusions about these characters' futures, but we can't figure out how they get from the point A, when the credits roll, to the point B, which we are told will happen. What is more, the plot-line between Crick and Price ends in a disappointing cliche. Overall, I think I should like this film less than I do. In the end, I think the source material, Swift's book, is so good, and the performances by Irons, Cusack, and Warnock were good enough to make up for the failings of the screenwriter and director.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


I find it so difficult to judge movies based on books that I've already read. Typically friends suggest that I wait to see a movie until I've read the book, reasoning that seeing a movie first somehow will spoil or taint or color the experience of reading the book ("You won't be able to help thinking of Tom as Jeremy Irons," as in this case. Actually, that might have been true in this case -- Tom, in my mind, was older and much fatter and not as good looking as Jeremy Irons.) But in general I think the opposite is more true. Even though I didn't like the movie version of "Prozac Nation," it did make me curious enough about the book so that maybe someday I will read it (if only to see if the book was as bad as the film). In this case, with "Waterland," it's impossible for me to know what it would have been like to see the movie without having read the book (especially since I just finished reading the book last week). Would the movie have been effective on its own? Because that of course is the key question. NOT how loyal was the movie to the book (in this case, not very) - who cares? The movie needs to be judged on its own, as a standalone creation or work of art. But I can't tell where the movie left off in my mind and the book filled in the blanks. I have the sense that the movie wasn't very good, and that I filled in a LOT. But I really can't know that. So all I have left is the vague sensation that it wasn't a very good movie.

Seth Rogovoy
Seth Rogovoy

A semi-interesting film... I think Jeremy Irons is a great actor and Ethan Hawke is pretty good as well, but this movie doesn't really show either of their potential...

Chris S
Chris S

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