“The Water is Wide” is a well-directed film and once it establishes its plot, it is story-telling at its best. It picks up steam in the classroom with Pat Conroy (played by a relative newcomer, Jeff Hephner) and it’s really a fresh and entertaining story. Hephner plays Conroy exceptionally well–one truly believes that this young fresh-faced teacher genuinely cares for his students and his creativity in reaching the children begins to pay off. He clashes with strict disciplinarian Mrs. Brown (Alfre Woodard), who in the beginning only wants the children to read the classroom text books and is not interested in expanding their world or minds beyond Yamacraw Island. In the process Conroy teaches the children classical music (they later easily recognize Mozart and Beethoven when they hear their music), and he takes them on a field trip to Washington, D.C. and later shows slides to the parents of the kids who rejoice in their children’s new-found horizons.
This film is very family friendly with a faint “h*ll” heard in one scene. The breakdown of barriers for these African-American children is a positive statement and it is also a positive for diverse relationships in that Conroy teaches the children with only the concern to truly expand their knowledge.
Read an interview with director John Kent Harrison: “The Water Is Wide” has director with heart for story