The film takes place on board a sleek sailboat anchored off the New England coast, where a psychological quadrangle develops between the four travelers on board.
Photographer Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) has been sent on assignment to photograph the remote island site where the 1873 murders of two young women took place, and she develops a theory about the real killer. Along for the ride is Jean's husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Thomas (Sean Penn). Their marriage is on the skids, a fact echoed in his blatant flirtation with ice cube-sucking tart Adaline (played by Elizabeth Hurley with an especially brave performance by her nipples), who accompanies Thomas' hunky brother Rich (Josh Lucas).
Adapting Anita Shreve's novel, Alice Arlen's script tries to bridge events in the present on board the Good Ship Sexual Tension with the murder case that unfurled on land more than 100 years ago with wholly unsatisfying results.
The psychological parallels of jealousy and loneliness drawn out between past and present are tenuous. As usual in such films that travel between two time frames, one story is more compelling than the other. In the case of The Weight of Water it's the lonely, arduous pioneer life of Norwegian immigrant Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley) that proves far more compelling. Deposited on the island by her much older husband to eke out a life cleaning house and cooking bread, Polley -- who has the slightly creepy presence of a young Jodie Foster -- gives a human dimension to a very thin story.
The cushy lives and sexual intrigue on the boat are far less interesting. And Hurley is required to carry all sexual tension on her own weary back since McCormack, Penn and Lucas couldn't ignite a match between them. At Garden Hills Cinema.