I’m one of those people who defends M. Night Shyamalan, and abstains from mocking him and laughing at his movies. Everything from The Sixth Sense to The Village gets a thumbs up from me. The Happening had potential, but unfortunately flopped, and I chose to stay away from The Last Airbender. What about that little movie that never seems to get brought up, Lady in the Water? Well it’s certainly not perfect or, even great, but watch it with an open mind and try to look beneath the surface and you very well may like the depth that this movie goes and the allegories that it presents.
Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is a nervous handyman at an apartment complex which houses a fair share of strange, yet interesting people. One night, Cleveland finds a mysterious woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) swimming in the apartment’s pool. He learns that she is actually a water nymph called a “narf” from the Blue World with a mission to inspire a writer living in the complex (Shyamalan, himself). This may sound easy, but there is a dangerous wolf-like creature, a “scrunt” lurking in the grass around the pool waiting for an opportunity to lash out at the nymph and prevent her from completing her mission. Cleveland rounds up the tenants of the building to battle the scrunt and help Story get home safe.
Anyone whose really analyzed a Shyamalan movie knows that he is avery religious person. Hell, you don’t even have to try very hard to get the message. Lady in the Water was more of a challenge to find the religious allegories and symbols, and I’m not going to spoil what they are, but this is a fun movie to study more than watch. To anyone who just wants to kill a few hours with this movie may be a little disappointed. Looking at it like a puzzle is more fun.
The main detraction of this movie is the convulsion of the plot combined with some poor pacing. First off, narf and scrunt are pretty laughable titles, but that’s nit picking. Clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes, I could easily scrub twenty off. Scenes go on for too long or don’t even need to exist. It felt like some scenes would have been better off as a deleted scene on the special features menu. The plot is also a little hard to believe. The people in this complex are more than ready to risk their lives for a supposed water nymph from another world. It would have been more interesting to see Giamatti’s character try to really convince the tenants what was going on. Also, anyone used to cool Shyamalan scares and love his plot twists may be a little disappointed as this movie is lacking both. There’s definitely an air of horror, but not much pay off.
Paul Giamatti is excellent and you can tell that he’s really trying to sell his lines, which is pretty successful most of the time. Bryce Dallas Howard also does a fine job, even though its a pretty one note performance. That stays within the realm of her character, so this isn’t a detraction. The other people in the apartments are less than spectacular, save for a surprising little performance by Jared Harris. He is great but doesn’t really have much to do, which is really disappointing.
Again, watch this movie with an open mind and really think. Finding all the clues, meanings, and worldly critiques are more interesting than the actual story. I can’t say I totally agree with Shyamalan’s philosophies, but they are intelligent and respectable in their own right and he does a great job at hiding them within the screenplay. Not everything is as obvious as it seems, which is a challenge that the characters in the film even have to overcome.
While Lady in the Water may not be a great movie, I’d still put it in the “good” category. It’s certainly not a bad movie at all, and I feel a lot of the hate towards this movie stem from the bandwagon of mockery that M. Night Shyamalan has to put up with. He’s not a bad film maker, in fact, he’s a very intelligent one and it shows in this film. I recommend it for the intellectual stimulation that is offered and Giamatti’s performance, but not so much for the story and the supporting cast.