Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Premise: Cleveland (Paul Giamatti), an apartment superintendent, takes in Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a mysterious young woman, and finds that she is a creature from ancient mythology. With the help of the apartment tenants, Cleveland attempts to return Story to her home despite the threat from other creatures that want to harm her.
What Works: Lady in the Water is a fairy tale told through Shyamalan’s unique sense of story, including colorful characters, a dark tone, and the mix of fantasy and reality. This film is a little more of a departure for Shyamalan, as he avoids some of the twists and reversals that characterized his other films. Lady in the Water has a much more straightforward narrative than his other work and this serves the film well because it gives the story more focus.
What Doesn’t: Although Lady in the Water features a much more straightforward narrative, it is not totally coherent. The fusion of the fantasy and reality is a tough sell because Shyamalan’s characters lack any sense of doubt or skepticism. The film does not convince its characters, or by proxy its audience, of the reality of the fantasy. As in Shyamalan’s other work, Lady in the Water has a very troubled ending. This film suffers from a deus ex machina solution to the conflict that does not enable its characters or bring the story to a satisfying conclusion.
Bottom Line: Lady in the Water ranks in the middle of Shyamalan’s body of work. It does not reach the thematic heights of The Village or the narrative cohesion of Unbreakable, but it does tell its story effectively, much more so than Signs. Clearly, viewers who did not like Shyamalan’s other work should stay clear of Lady in the Water but those who have enjoyed his work or are just in the mood for something truly original should check it out.
Episode: #105 (August 6, 2006)