M. Night Shyamalan has written and directed yet another fine film. I have been a fan of his ever since The Sixth Sense, and have carried my admiration for his work through viewing Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village. His most recent work, Lady in the Water, proved to be a complex and ambitious film.
Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) is the stuttering maintenance man/superintendent at The Cove, an apartment complex with a unique swimming pool that leads to the Blue World. Cleveland discovers Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) swimming in the pool one night after hours. Story however is from a fairy tale, and has a purpose to fulfill for the benefit of mankind. A Chinese woman in the building slowly reveals to Cleveland the archetypal tale Story inhabits, and he tries to piece together the clues to deliver a happy ending. To finish the tale he enlists the help of a group of diverse residents in the building. That in itself was the part of the movie that was difficult to believe, that these residents would help him and not simply think him crazy, but this is a fantasy after all, and suspension of disbelief is required here.
The film is shot in a Rear Window like fashion (Alfred Hitchcock is one of Shyamalan’s favorite directors; mine too). Shyamalan himself has a more than cameo acting role in his film this time around as Vick, a young writer with a manuscript that will eventually help change the world. This role Shyamalan has chosen to play seems a bit of a grandiose choice, but he is a brilliant filmmaker after all and everything Vick learns about his writing could be applied to Shyamalan’s own works as well. For who among us really knows the impact our life’s work can have on future generations?
If I could distill the subject of this film into one word, it would be purpose. The mystery that is our world is looked at through the eyes of the residents of The Cove who are trying to figure out their purpose in life the same as any of us are doing in our own lives. This I think is what made Lady in the Water so appealing to me. Shyamalan attempted to tell an archetypal tale to inspire us to think about life, and anyone who likes to go to a film to have their mind challenged and stimulated would appreciate his attempt. I liked how I felt when I left the movie that even if I don’t know what exactly my contributions through my work and life have accomplished, they may be part of a process that helps the planet evolve.
The film is rated PG-13 for some frightening sequences (the world Story comes from has some truly scary creatures in it). If you haven’t seen Shyamalan’s other films, I recommend them all. You can easily rent them from Netflix (see link on this site).