Walter Salles' 'Dark Water' is just about the only good thing that came out of the plague of J-horror remakes that swept through Hollywood in the aughts. More: it is one of the most undervalued genre films of that decade – a lovely, hypnotic horror-tinged mood piece that got buried in a summer that gave us 'Revenge of the Sith' and 'Batman Begins.' Frustratingly, its greatest strength was often singled out as a flaw: rather than trying to develop a sense of danger, Salles instead filled every frame with an all-encompassing, otherworldly melancholy. It's not really about a ghost. It's about a woman who's trying like hell to be the good mother she didn't have – and is mortified at the prospect of failing.
That woman, evocatively named Dahlia, is played by Jennifer Connelly in the least strained, the most invested, and perhaps the most difficult performance of her career. Her work, while nearly always good, has never been this crucial. She is the movie's lynchpin and its sharpest instrument.