Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Waaterland is about a teacher who reaches a crisis-point in his marriage, job and lifestyle and attempts to take his pupils with him on his own belated journey of self-discovery. Now in Pittsburgh, the teacher (Jeremy Irons) has memories of an english childhood on the Fens during the second world war, of the wife (Sinead Cusack) he first loved as a boy, and of an act of violence that has left him uneasy for the rest of his life. Faced with a recalcitrant, uninterested class, he risks everything by telling them his life story as son, brother, lover husband and teacher. Flashbacks follow him back in time.
Gyllenhaal is particularly well served by Irons, whose mournful, concerened presence dominates the proceedings, and by Robert Elswit’s cinematorgraphy of both the Fen country and America. There are also lively performances from the students and from Grant Warnock and Lena Headey as the younger versions of the married couple we see.