Great review from Entertainment.ie (Ireland):
Sweet but surprisingly understated, this book adaptation may be slow for a modern Hollywood production, but it oozes class. I Am Legend director Lawrence has moved as far away from the hyper-reality of that world as possible, and delivered a genuinely lovely film in the process. Fans of Pattinson will also be delighted to learn that the Twilight heartthrob carries his first big-budgeted foray outside of the fang-filled world admirably.
Pattinson is the son of Polish immigrants living in America who’s about to graduate from veterinary school in the middle of a depression. Just as he’s to sit his final exam, he’s given the tragic news that both of his parents have been killed in a car accident. After finding out that they remortgaged their house to pay for his college tuition, he has no option but to go on the road penniless to look for work. Soon after going on his way he comes across a travelling circus whose main act revolves around Reese Witherspoon’s horse wrangler/gymnast, and he manages to get a job with them and fall in love with her. Finding each other to be kindred spirits, an obstacle exists in the form of Waltz’s sadistic circus boss who is married to the object of our hero’s affection.
Water for Elephants is the kind of film that engages you without ever really moving out of third gear. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and the breezy, almost whimsical tone works in its favour, aiding you during the introduction to its wonderful characters. There are some predictably gorgeous visuals, but they always feel organic in relation to the plot. The normally technically ostentatious Lawrence holds back on the CGI and uses his excellent eye for a shot purely to serve the story. This is easily his best film to date, and shows him to be a helmer of commendable range.
While Witherspoon and Waltz (excellent, if an obvious choice for another villain) share co-billing with Pattinson, this really is the young Brit’s film. His isn’t the type of part that calls for searing charisma or angst-ridden pondering; his character needed to be a genial presence on screen, and he’s always watchable, showing some genuine thespian chops during the film’s heavier moments. There seems to be trend with his non-Twilight role choices, and it’s obvious that the star is attempting to generate a career with longevity. On the basis of his work here, he should be successful on that count.
A really lovely film, that every member of your family should enjoy.