Lady in the Water

Lady in the Water
directed by M. Night Shyamalan
starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bob Balaban

LITWM. Night Shyamalan gets a lot of attention as a ‘hack’ these days – while many hail him as a filmmaking genius, there are many that write him off as a one-trick pony whose stories rely entirely on a twist ending that redefines the entire film (forgetting that “Signs” did not have a twist ending, but rather a deux ex machina one). “The Village” was considered weak by a majority of critics and fans, and now “Lady in the Water” is suffering an even worse thrashing, many even calling it among the worst films they’d ever seen.

I don’t consider Shyamalan’s films very rewatchable, I even agree that they are rather pretentious, but throughout each of his films is a deliberate craft, great casting, and more than anything, true ‘movie moments’ that show M. Night is probably just as interested in being the new Spielberg as he is being the new Hitchcock as he is often called.

So I’m gonna say it right now – I really really liked this film, and I know I’m in the minority. I actually even thought “The Village” was somewhat interesting and had a bad rap as well. Why? I think people have conditioned themselves to his films to wait for an ending that they expect to no less than blow them away, ignoring the actual film in the process. As well I think some are on to his bag of tricks – every character’s little quirk does come back to mean something later.

“Lady in the Water” is a fairytale set in a completely mundane environment which no character leaves at any point in the film. I think right here people find something they can’t get over. Ridiculous plots and themes are acceptable to people when its in a mystical land with demons and winged beasts and elves, but unacceptable when it’s a plain old apartment complex whose central character is the landlord. But it works for me, everything unfolds nicely, the reasons these characters so blindly accept the strange goings on, the complaints about it are all moot – It’s a fairytale, and it is not meant to be taken seriously. I don’t take any great moral from the film, it’s just a nice story I enjoyed.

Furthermore, this film has been taking hits from critics, in my opinion, specifically for 2 reasons – One, M. Night has cast himself as a writer whose work will change the world, and Two, the villain of the film is – a film critic. Critics take themselves very seriously, and I think the character says some things that poked them a little too hard, leaving them to think – who the hell does M. Night think he his? The reviews for “Lady in the Water”, to me anyways, are at least partly a punishment for biting their hand, and partial honesty/lack of understanding of the film’s intentions.

So…. back to the actual film – Paul Giamatti carries this film on his shoulders, supported by a largely unknown cast peppered by good actors like Freddy Rodriguez and Bob Balaban here and there. Bryce Dallas Howard is a sea nymph/narf who very simply, has come to rely a message, and then needs to get back to the Blue World from which she came. The problem though is that she needs to catch an Eagle home, and theres some strange wolf-like creature out there waiting to destroy her. Together, the residents mysteriously have to figure out how to arrange conditions favorable for her departure. It really isn’t all that ridiculous at all if you can accept that this is a fantasy film. Giamatti’s performance in particular is reason enough to see this film itself, as while he is funny and Jimmy Stewart-ish at times, he carries a real pain at the same time that truly comes to a moving climax. This film really cements my opinion of Giamatti as my favorite actor working right now.

So ultimately you’ll have to judge for yourself, I just hope you can tap into a childish mindset and just accept whats happening rather than thinking too realistically. – Goon

SCORE: 4 stars

  • zak

    i was just reading that a book has been released that followed shyamalan as he worked to sell the movie to warner bros from the writing stage until the end of production, all with the approval of night himself.
    from what i’ve heard, anybody who already thinks that night is pretentious is going to walk away feeling even more validated in their beliefs.
    the book’s titled ‘the man who heard voices’

  • Actually this book is basically a huge part of the reason for the backlash as it is. OLD NEWS ZAK. O-L-D-N-E-W-S.

  • ZAK..just admit you were touched. You were touched and you’re afraid of the feelings that you experienced during the film. You’re afraid because you’ve never felt them before. YOU WERE TOUCHED.

  • Goon

    M. Night touched me in my special area.

  • zak

    i’ll admit that you touched me during the movie. but that’s all that happened. i’m sorry i’m behind the times in news. i just don’t waste much time on shitty movies. well, not anymore.

  • Touched what?

  • But Zak you’re so up to date on all the latest shitty bands!! what’s the deal?

  • zak

    i’m only up to date on all the shitty bands cus i read them over at

  • Henrik

    This movie fucking rules.

  • Henrik

    As for him being the new Spielberg…

    Steven Spielberg can only ever dream of succeeding in such extreme environments.

  • I’d like to rewatch it at some point but I still stand by my initial assessment that this movie was fuckin ridiculous.

  • Henrik

    It’s very easy to hate. There are many things that will seem ridiculous, and I were also thinking to myself several times that if this had been in another movie I would hate it. Things like the scene where Giamatti spills all the goods near the end and just rambles on and on seem so forced and dumbed down, but it works in this movie. It works.

    From the first moment it got on screen I was excited. I thought the drawings set the mood perfectly, and if there is one thing that M. Night Shyamalan *always* gets 100% right it’s the music. This has the best score of any of his movies. I have listened to it excessively since I saw this movie in the theatre. I love music, and he seems to have found an amazing balance between when to use music and when not to. Something that seperates him from Steven Spielberg and reminds more of Stanley Kubrick.

    Do you guys watch end credits? I always watch end credits to movies, and I have been surprised that nobody has mentioned the use of Bob Dylan’s The times they are a-changing . When I heard that in the theatre I totally freaked out. I love that about Shyamalan. His movies are personal, and with this… He takes his criticism of critics to the utmost extremes, and in anticipation of the backlash he puts a classic like Bob Dylan’s over the credits…

    Whenever I see him in interviews I think he sounds like a jackass, but I am convinced that he is the best living director in the world.

    The usual comment sorrounding this movie is “Give me a break…” which is valid I guess, but he who gets hurt will be he who has stalled and you guys don’t know what you’re missing.

    (Btw. the reason these comments are coming now is because I was bored and thought that I hadn’t read the filmjunk review of this movie. It’s probably the 2nd best movie I’ve seen in 2006, after Babel.)