A vivid imagination does wonders for those who feed off of it, but it can do just as much damage as good sometimes, especially when it’s fed by hope and desperation. The town of Pine Mills, Oregon, is a great place for a young boy such as Gunner to find inspiration for the graphic novel he’s writing. Unfortunately, Gunner’s situation is not the best since his father, who is a Marine, isn’t around nearly as much as he needs to be, and his mother is constantly ill, thanks to leukemia. Gunner and his father don’t exactly get along and have yet to fully connect, as his father doesn’t fully understand Gunner’s obsession with his artwork. But when his mother’s condition continues to get worse, Gunner seeks out information concerning a local legend known as the Water Man, a mysterious figure that has been passed down as a part of legend throughout the years and is said to harbor the secret of immortality. After meeting with a young girl named Jo, Gunner decides to take off into the woods to see if the legend is real.
The difficulties between kids and their parents are on display in this movie, and it works.
There’s no doubt that Gunner loves his mother very much and that she knows how to connect with him, but his father is another matter. The moment when his father attempts to wake Gunner up to toss the football around is swiftly followed by another moment in which Gunner’s father steps on his work accidentally and ruins it. If this isn’t bad enough, another moment arises later on when Gunner accidentally sees his mother without her head wrap in the bathroom, and his father shakes him while asking what he is doing. This act drives Gunner further from his father, though he appears to want to know why his father hates him and doesn’t rebel against him that much.
Gunner and Jo’s adventure is the type that a lot of kids would agree is a bonding experience.
At first glance, it doesn’t appear that Jo is all that trustworthy, but as she and Gunner make their way through the forest, they begin to bond as they experience moments that could normally only be told in a storybook. From a stampede of wild horses to snowfall in the middle of the forest, all the way to a deluge of beetles and roaches, the two kids begin to understand one another a little better as they reveal more about themselves. The curious implement that Gunner has brought along with him, a samurai sword that his father apparently brought back from Japan, is a part of the story that actually comes in handy and stands out as an oddity, even when it becomes a useful tool that ends up saving Gunner’s life as he tries to cross a river by walking across a tree that’s fallen over the span. As the two kids continue to travel further into the woods, however, it’s revealed that a forest fire is raging in the direction they’re traveling, but they have no knowledge of it.
Despite their friction, it’s seen that Gunner’s father does care deeply about him.
His dad does appear kind of dodgy when he fails to tell Gunner’s mother that he took off into the woods, supposedly looking for a legend that could help her illness. But once she does find out, from the local sheriff no less, he sets out on his own to bring their son back, redeeming himself in a big way as he seeks out any information that might be helpful in bringing their son back. While he does start off as kind of a jerk, he does manage to make it clear that the difficulties between himself and his son don’t mean that he doesn’t care. As he continues to search for Gunner, the kids make their way further into the forest, eventually losing all but the clothes on their backs and the sword that Gunner brought along. At one point they end up becoming separated, while Gunner ends up finding a rundown shack near a lake that he believes belongs to the Water Man.
The twist at the end is kind of interesting.
It’s not too long before the twist arrives, revealing that the Water Man, and his shack, are not real and were fabricated by Gunner’s desire to find something that would help his mother’s illness. Not too long after this, Gunner’s father shows up and saves him and Jo, who also ends up finding the lake. By the end of the movie, it’s revealed that Jo has moved in with Gunner’s family and that despite the fact that his mother is still ill, Gunner’s family is now whole and grateful for the time they get to spend with each other. When all is said and done, this is a touching movie that has a very positive lesson attached to it.Oregonthe Water Man
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