Lady in the Water (2006)
An apartment complex utility man is saved by a mysterious woman who has come to the complex on a mission. Leaving, however, proves difficult.
"Lady in the Water" has been the only movie I've wanted to watch this year. Literally. My exposure to the movie prior to watching it was the title of the movie, the name of the writer/director, and the movie poster outside of the theater. No trailers, no teasers, no discussions with friends, and certainly no reviews. I had no expectations going into the movie except that it would be an M. Night Shyamalan film through-and-through.
I was not disappointed.
Night took a bedtime story he created for his daughters and turned it into a feature-length, live-action fairytale with strong thematic elements. He also included the signature elements that have consistently drawn me to his movies: a bereaved or damaged lead character that finds healing and redemption.
Paul Giamatti, the movie's leading man, delivered an enjoyable performance as a man who suffers from a severe stutter, and a moving performance as a man who, at long last, breaks down over the loss of his murdered family. That, that is what I enjoy seeing in Night's movies: a hardened, weary character who finds healing through a supernatural event that is beyond their ability to control.
That said, this movie is not for everyone. The plot demands a great deal from the viewer, just as Shyamalan has demanded much from his actors. For instance, every character directly participating in the story immediately accepts the situation at hand at face value. All it takes is a quick chat with Giamatti's character to explain the situation, and why the character must participate in the story's final act.
Just as the characters accept the story at face value, the viewer must also accept the story and characters at face value. Having seen the movie and freed to read reviews, I'm disgusted with what I'm seeing: critics are unwilling to take the movie at face value! In response, I would posit that Shyamalan has transcended genres while simultaneously breaking with tradition. The result is a movie that people have not been able to categorize.
"Lady in the Water" is based on a fairytale, but it's an unfamiliar and nontraditional story to us. Were it familiar, Disney would have made an animated film of it, but in this case it's live action. Had Disney made the film, it would have targeted a much younger demographic. This, however, is an M. Night Shyamalan film, and he targeted an older demographic with a particular expression of the fairytale. It's not a horror, it's not a suspense, and it's not a thriller.
I think "Lady in the Water" is a fairytale for adults. It may not be a movie for you, but I think Shyamalan has delivered an interesting and worthwhile film.
I give "Lady in the Water" 4 out of 5 stars. It loses a star because there were a few odd spots in the movie, most notably the demise of the film critic character - it appeared that his death was somehow poetic, or just, or somehow necessary, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out why.