Writer/ director Cohen builds good suspense within this game of cat-and-mouse between Alex and Frank. I liked Alex’s attempt to stay off the grid while hiding from Frank. The sadistic nature of the maybe-still-alive Frank is also quite thrilling. Then there is Martha’s psychotic breakdown over time. There are more twists and turns that I won’t even mention.
The real problem is the story structure of A Stone in the Water. Think of it as a less-than-stellar Disney roller coaster. The basic skeleton of the ride is a pretty good roller coaster, but the decorations and set pieces that tell the “story” often don’t make sense and lessens the overall impact.
“…if you’re a fan of Melissa Fumero and Bonnie Bedelia, you will not be disappointed.”
It starts by telling the story of Martha and her son, Tommy, and the tragedy that led to his now mental disability. We then shift to a completely different story of Alex and Frank loaded with betrayal and deceit, which involves Tommy. When tragedy strikes Tommy (a character I thought was the story’s main focus), Martha now takes the lead in the film. We deal with her devastating grief involving her Calvinistic beliefs about fate, providence, and karma to some degree.
Throughout, I kept asking myself, “who’s story is this?” There’s nothing that says you can’t tell more than one seemingly unrelated story in a single movie. But the key is to manage the way the narratives mix and mingle. This management is essential because you want the audience to engage with the story from start to finish. The moment the audience has to stop and question what just happened or abruptly shift the attention to a different story without warning, they become disengaged, which happened to me.
A Stone in the Water is a fun movie, faults and all. There’s still a lot of good stuff that pushes you to the edge of your seat. I didn’t talk about Bonnie Bedelia much, but her performance and character are fantastic and not worth spoiling in any way. Story issues aside, strap in and enjoy the ride.
"…a lot of good stuff that pushes you to the edge of your seat."