Water for Elephants

Out Now On-Demand

Period romance set in a traveling circus, starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon. Based on the bestselling novel.

Veterinary school student Jacob (Pattinson) meets and falls in love with Marlena (Witherspoon), a star performer in a circus of a bygone era. They discover beauty amidst the world of the Big Top, and come together through their compassion for a special elephant. Their relationship faces the wrath of Marlena's dangerous husband, August (Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz).


Directed by

Written by

Adaptation, Drama, Romance


Rating: M contains violence


Official Site

Some films are so entertaining, their flaws can be forgiven. Such is the case with Water for Elephants. It’s an imperfect, schmaltzy beast that feels like a film from a bygone era, and not just because it’s set in the 1930s. This is no prequel or sequel; it doesn’t rely heavily on CGI. It’s a fast-paced adventure tale like they used to make ‘em, a slice of old-fashioned Hollywood that traverses tragedy, romance and exotic travel. Step right up folks and join the circus.

Animal lovers may find it hard going watching the trained cats and star pachyderm, Rosie. The rest will likely thrill to its good versus evil characters, compelling theme of illusion and of course, the fact that Twilight’s Robert Pattinson plays the lead, Jacob.

He is really nice to look at, although his performance feels flat and uncertain, possibly because he’s playing opposite luminous Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon, who puts in a capable performance as one of the circus’ star attractions. Pattinson is just as easily outshone by another fiery Oscar winner, Christopher Waltz who plays the antagonist, August.

There are a few too many holes in the logic, too. A knife appears a little too conveniently in one of the film’s climactic scenes and the old man narrative that bookends the story feels unnecessary (Since when did Hal Holbrook look anything like Pattinson?). But director Francis Lawrence keeps tensions high throughout, the costumes look authentic and the story – based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Sara Gruen – is riveting enough to make it feel like two hours well spent.

A.V. Club


It's a tastefully managed, passionless melodrama, full of brooding looks and reasonably sweet moments, but typified by a scantly characterized central couple who bring no sense of engagement to their relationship.

Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)


In an age of prefabricated special effects and obviously phony spectacle, it's sort of old-fashioned (and a pleasure) to see a movie made of real people and plausible sets.

Christchurch Press (Margaret Agnew)


Water For Elephants is your typical love triangle (or quadrangle), but this swoony, dramatic, high-stakes romance has an old-timey twist.

Empire (UK)


Familiar but enjoyable. Not being funny, the elephant (Rosie, played by nine-foot enchantress Tai) is the real star as the most moving and only joyful presence in sight.

Hollywood Reporter


Will please fans of Sara Gruen's best seller, but it lacks the vital spark that would have made the drama truly compelling on the screen.

New York Times


Short-circuits the novel's quirky charms and period atmosphere by its squeamish attitude toward gritty circus life and smothers the drama under James Newton Howard's insufferable wall-to-wall musical soup.

Otago Daily Times (Christine Powley)


Clumsy, cruelly disappointing...

Otago Daily Times (Christine Powley)


Clumsy, cruelly disappointing...

Total Film (UK)


A swoony, enjoyable, old-time romance whose best acts are a period-perfect Pattinson and a playful pachyderm. But despite its best endeavours, it can’t quite punch above ’plex-pleasing weight.

TVNZ (Darren Bevan)


Water For Elephants is massively disappointing after such a good set up.

Variety (USA)


The filmmakers clearly value their public, crafting a splendid period swooner that delivers classic romance and an indelible insider's view of 1930s circus life.

Water for Elephants

The story itself is wildly unrealistic, but Water for Elephants tells it cohesively with fine performances accompanied with rough, heartbreaking scenes of raw emotion.

I liked it!

I didn't think I could imagine Robert Pattison without fangs and red glowing eyes, so thought that this movie would be terrible. I was happy to proved wrong, and thought he pulled off a great performance in this film. I hadn't read the book, so can't compare it to that. But enjoyed the film from start to finish and would definately recommend it.


Maybe it's because these type of movies are not my thing, but found it boring and predictable. Would not recommend.

A watchable period piece

I don't get the Robert Pattinson thing so nearly didn't go to this movie, but I'm glad I did. A good adaptation from the book, it wasn't how I pictured it as I read the book and that can be a good thing. I ended up enjoying Pattinson in the role and Reese played her character well too. A good mix of characters, casting worked well and the whole premise of 1931 worked well. I actually enjoyed the way the movie started and finished in current time and then looked back. It worked well. I'd recommend this.





1931 wasn't a good year. The depression hit America hard. Water for Elephants captures this grim reality but manages to maintain the romanticism of the train-travelling big-top circus era. Pattison handles the leading role with a great deal of competency, though never seeming to transcend that level. This stands out more in comparison to the excellent performances given by Christoph Waltz and Reese Witherspoon. There are a number of vital elements that I wish were explored further and the ending's a bit too clean, but nevertheless, Water for Elephants is an engaging tale of beauty in a very ugly time.

Really a period drama....

I agree it is kind of old school and much of the charm of the movie was in the costumes and setting representing the bygone era of 1931. As such it was entertaining and I wasn't bored (although at one point in the middle I was almost bored !).

Robert was OK and Reese, let's face it, was just being Reese and neither of them were outstanding. However Christopher Waltz was fabulous as the sadist bad guy who was also charming and sorry for himself.

I actually quite liked the book end and thought the old guy was convincing physically at Robert P, remembering he was supposed to be at least 90 years old !

I you like Robert/Reese go pay and see it and enjoy, otherwise wait for the DVD and it would still be an OK evening. Not Oscar material tho....

Worth a watch :)

Thinks its a bit better than the bad review it gets by the movie credits... perhaps wait till it's on DVD?




Which film were you watching?

Geez, Rebecca Barry. "It's not explained why Jacob can suddenly speak a strange language the elephant understands."


Because remember at the beginning of the film when Jacob is speaking POLISH to his POLISH parents who very soon after die in a car accident? And then remember how when he is frustrated with the elephant Jacob says something in POLISH and the elephant responds?

Jeez, its clear to me that you weren't paying attention when watching this film. That was hardly a confusing moment.

I thought the film was enjoyable. Nice to have a film with no CGI and special effects trying to buoy it along. Christopher Waltz is fabulous. I think Reese is great but didn't seem to wear her character convincingly. There were a few throwaway lines to make us believe she had a hard upbringing but she seemed to lack the steeliness such a character would have. Rob is doing better and better each film and is becoming a convincing leading man. He was very good in some of the more dramatic and physical scenes, but comes across as a little wholesome sometimes. But of course the elephant steals the show. Its a nice film. A fun romp. But not amazing.

Didnt like it.

Terrible casting and acting apart from Reese. Predictable and far fetched. Save your time and money.