Here’s a young mother with a five-year-old daughter freshly divorced from her husband who thinks she’s delusional, paranoid even, and wants to keep sole custody of their daughter. The daughter is everything she has reason to live, a life that has been so hard to endure with an indelible traumatic childhood. Yet, because she sees herself in her daughter needing constant unconditional love, which she was not allowed to have, she will do anything to protect her from the harsh reality of life, even from the supernatural peril of the beyond reality.
So the story of Dark Water (2005) narrates Dahlia, a young divorcee trying to take full custody of her daughter Ceci away from her assiduously hostile husband. Instead, he embarks on a legal battle to claim sole possession of Ceci because of Dahlia’s unstable mental state. Dahlia, a once copy editor from Seattle, takes a low-paying administrative position at a Manhattan Radiology office for livelihood in a delipidated apartment in Roosevelt Island with Ceci. The semblance of the apartment is the working-class version of Rosemary’s apartment. Dark water is leaking everywhere: from the elevator to their bedroom ceiling, and the laundry room, which is a prelude to the finding of a tank on the rooftop where the traumatic ends of a certain young Russian girl abandoned, unloved finds her and her memories. Or is it Dahlia’s phantasmal delusion of confronting her own child self in her painkiller-induced pill to alleviate the cruel migraine caused by the yoke of woes?
Dark Water is an American adaptation of the original Japanese film Dark Water (2002) by Koji Suzuki, the famous writer of the Ring trilogy, excellently translated to an American audience who will find broad universal themes of human nature, psychology, and behavior. You don’t have to have perfect childhood fed on parental love to be a loving parent. Of course, unhappy childhood will affect the development of one’s character and behavior pattern more or less, but it all boils down to one’s nature to be loved and be loving. Dahlia wants to counteract the demon of the past, which still grabs her with its tenacious tentacle of recurring nightmares and murderous migraine, by being constantly -and eternally – loving and kind to Ceci despite her unhealed scars left in her child self. Perhaps that is why her name is Dahlia, whose flower word is loyalty, dignity, courage, and support due to its withstanding of harsh conditions.
Jennifer Connelly, playing Dahlia, is not only beautiful but also talented in a way that few actresses on screen possess in our time. Her presence in scenes is unique in that her character is downright realistic yet oddly out of the world in a riveting way, as exhibited in this film. No wonder the late film critic Roger Ebert admired her for the same reason. With her exceptional performance and the storytelling that grips the eyes and ears of the beholder, Dark Water is a worthy film for those who delight in supernatural horror without blood and screams.