Film review: Lady in the Water (2006), directed by M Night Shyamalan
In an apartment block surrounding a pool lives the caretaker, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti). One night, he comes across the person who has been using the pool after hours: a naked woman, calling herself Story (Bryce Dallas Howard). As it turns out, Story is not there by accident, she’s some sort of water-dwelling creature who can elicit a spiritual awakening within someone.
This is part of a story Mrs Choi (June Kyoko Lu) heard when she was a child: about creatures called Narfs, who once lived in harmony with humans, giving them advice, but of course humans went and did their own (violent) thing, and the Narfs and their purpose were only remembered through fairytales.
So, question is who is the person who needs to be awakened, and can Cleveland keep Story from getting killed by another creature before she’s met the person in need of awakening? And can he help her get back to her people when her, erm, lift returns?
Also starring M Night Shyamalan himself as Vick Ran, Sarita Choudhury as his sister Anna, Cindy Cheung as Young-Soon Choi, and Freddy Rodríguez as Reggie, amongst many others.
This being a Shyamalan film, I expected it to have a big twist at the end. Spoiler: it doesn’t. (Maybe that’s a twist in itself?) Sure, it has something of a twist near the end, but one that was easily anticipated and doesn’t count. I’m talking about something like if she had turned out to be a ghost all along – nothing like that.
Instead, Lady in the Water is part fantasy, part New Agey spiritual uplifting fluff. Which was unexpected, and not unpleasant. At the same time it can also be the nail in the coffin for many. If you’re not into spirituality à la New Age, you’re going to roll your eyes at the talk of spiritual awakenings, guardians, healing and water nymphs, and judge the film accordingly: as a load of fluffy clap-trap. If you, on the other hand, are fine with the concept of spiritual awakenings, you’re faced with an interesting film. Sort of.
It still had its issues, such as getting a bit too involved in its own mythology. You can really question how easily the rest of the residents take to believe the rather implausible story of a water nymph appearing in their Philadelphia swimming pool, only to make one of the residents tingle and write a book. Yeah, even I found the concept verging on the silly a lot of the time, but overall it was actually surprisingly compelling to watch, and I liked it.
3.8 out of 5 clogged drains.