Having been forced to move on from a coaches position because he happened to pick the best players who were African American, Pat Conroy (Jeff Hephner) is sent down to Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina. Idealistic in his views Pat wants to bring literacy to the uneducated African-American children living there by inspiring them as well as the rest of the community. Unfortunately his teaching style doesn't go down well with everyone especially the school's only other teacher and principal Mrs. Brown (Alfre Woodard) who believes the best way to learn is through discipline and is never far from her stick that she uses to whack the children with.
And the list goes on. What list do I refer to? That list of movies whether fictional or fact based which are about a new inspirational teacher trying to inspire the children that he teaches to learn and facing opposition to the way he goes about doing it. And "The Water Is Wide" whilst based on the teaching experiences of the real Pat Conroy back in 1969 follows suit with a very similar style to other movies with Pat initially struggling to gain the children's trust whilst dealing with that opposition to his teaching style. It does use an unusual narration style which is reminiscent of "The Waltons" with Conroy bridging the gap with his thoughts to move things along at a reasonable click but other than a mix of humour, drama and some quirky-ish characters it is all pretty standard with that Hallmark movie tone.
But before you jump and say you can't have watched it I will say one thing about "The Water is Wide" and it does explore the attitudes of grown ups at the time and in particular the teacher Mrs. Brown who believes in discipline and always has a stick or strap in her hand to dish out a punishment. But it is more than that because we have her attitude towards the children and saying things such as trying to beat their African heritage out of them. We also see how she is almost trying to hold them back whilst going to war with Conroy.
What this all boils down to is that "The Water is Wide" is entertaining and has some original aspects which help to make it stand out a little from many of the other inspirational TV movies. But it is an inspirational TV movie and as such it is incredibly familiar and with a narrative that you will be able to predict within minutes of it starting.