Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Budget: 75 million (estimated)
Domestic Gross: $42 272 747
Lady In The Water is a film that is still pretty fresh in the minds of many people – those who saw it in the theater only a few months ago and those that didn’t go see it because of the horrible reviews it got when it was released. this is however another great example of the kind of films that fbnf is all about.
i am a huge m. night shyamalan fan. i loved The Sixth Sense, i thought Unbreakable was even better (that is my favorite of his films to date) and I liked the village and signs, although i did have some issues with the latter. given this fact I was very eagerly awaiting the release of Lady In The Water from the moment I saw the teaser trailer sometime around the end of 2005. i went to see the film on opening day and, yes, i really liked it. then i came home and read reviews and talked to some people and was bombarded with all the negative comments that everyone else seemed to have for the movie, which caught me a little off guard considering the highly positive experience i had had in the theater.
we all know this part but I will go through it quickly: the story for the film came from a fairy tale that m. night made up and would tell to his kids to put them to sleep. this is important because while it is not a kids movie at all, it is a ‘fairy tale’. paul giamatti plays the superintendent of an apartment complex who finds a young women in the pool one night and rescues her only to find out that she is a narf trying to make her way back home to the blue world, but there are some obstacles in the way. giamatti and the rest of the tenants must then work to try to figure out what each of their roles are in helping the girl get home and in so doing learn something about themselves.
If you are already rolling your eyes and thinking how ridiculous it sounds then the movie probably isn’t for you. the best thing i heard said about the film was in a review i listened to on the m. night shyamalan episode of the 'watching the directors' podcast. the movie begins with a voice over and animation setting up the fairy tale and the back story to the fairy tale characters and their world and origins. on the podcast they make the point that, if you can watch that opening bit and decide to let yourself go along with it and be taken into it then you will enjoy this film. however, if you are going to question it and think that it sounds silly and implausible then the film is not going to work for you. that, for me summed it up perfectly. i was with this film right from the opening scene.
we all know m. night is a great film maker and has a great sense of how to create a suspense with his pacing and camera work. i have always appreciated the slow pace his films have rather then going for the easy scare or fast cutting. shyamalan creates a mood with his films and Lady In The Water is no different. another thing that I really liked about this film was how the people in the movie don’t question the reality of what’s going on. normally, in a movie when giamatti would tell the other tenants about the narf and the blue world, etc… there would be a bunch of time spent trying to convince them that he isn’t crazy and that it is actually real. not here though. not only does giammati’s character take it as truth when the narf tells him the story, but so do the other tenants. this was something that really stood out for me and was greatly appreciated in the context of this fairy tale and as different from the typical films of the genre.
This isn’t a perfect film though. There are some problems with it. The biggest issue i had with the film, and this is one of the problems i had with Signs, was that he has to show us the monsters. he is so good throughout most of both of those films at creating fear and suspense without relying on special effects or shots of the ‘creatures/aliens’ but in both films, near the end he breaks form that and lets us see them. in signs it wasn’t as bad but in Lady In The Water it kind of is, especially because it is so obvious that it is people in costumes which did take me out of the moment for a while. he could have let us use our imagination and just show us shadows, quick, brief glimpses or nothing at all, but instead he chose to back away from what had worked for the entire movie up until then. besides that however, i was with this film from start to finish and i enjoyed the fairy tale and the grand themes about life, fate and purpose that it dealt with.
i heard lots of critics calling the film self-indulgent and calling m. night narcissistic and it didn’t help that he gave himself a pretty big and important role in this one – as opposed to his small Hitchcockesque moments in his other films. however, I thought he was fine in the role – not to say it couldn’t have been done better by a better actor – but he was good enough to not make me question the truth of the character he was portraying.
Lady In The Water comes out on dvd in a week or two, and if you think you can let yourself go and accept the fairy tale premise like the characters in the movie do, then forget all the negativity that surrounded the film and remember to check it out.