Lady in the Water
Release Year: 2006
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Chodhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan, Freddy Rodríguez, Bill Irwin, Mary Beth Hurt
M. Night Shyamalan is, as most will know, something of a controversial figure. Lauded widely for his début, The Sixth Sense (1999), and by connoisseurs for his follow-up Unbreakable (2000). It is practically universally agreed that the quality of his output went downhill, but most agree on exactly when that happened. Perhaps contrary to popular opinion, I would count Lady in the Water as one of his good films. As the trailer below shows the film was marketed towards horror and thriller fans who had liked his previous films, but Lady in the Water is not a horror or thriller film at all, rather it is a fantasy film, an urban fairy tale. The story is set in a Philadelphia apartment building where a water nymph called Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) falls suddenly into the mundane world of the caretaker Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti). The film opens with a wonderful animated introduction to the mythology of the film that sets a magical tone for the film which is sort of kept up for large parts of the film. Then follows a surprisingly humorous introduction of the residents of the apartment building, including its newest resident, a film critic played by the wonderful Bob Balaban (The Monument Men, 2014). A large part of the film reolves around the mythology being explained and the proper roles being assigned to the residents in their quest to help Story return home. The mixture of the magical and mundane does not always work as well as was clearly intended, but the film deserve credit for its originality, it’s whimsy, and last but not least its lead. Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave, 2013) is wonderful as the kind-hearted stuttering Heep and plays well up against the more comedic resident characters as well as Howard’s ethereal and innocent Story. However, some supporting characters come close to caricatures, while the director himself delivers a wooden performance in a part which turns out to be significant in a way that makes his casting seem unfortunate. Recommened to Shyamaln fans, but nay-sayer ought to stay clear.
The plot is based on a bedtime story writer/director M. Night Shyamalan told to his children.
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.