Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) has been quietly trying to disappear among the burned-out lightbulbs and broken appliances of the Cove apartment complex. But on the night that irrevocably changes his life, Cleveland finds someone else hiding in the mundane routine of the modest building – a mysterious young woman named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), who has been living in the passageways beneath the building’s swimming pool. Cleveland discovers that Story is actually a “narf” – a nymph-like character from an epic bedtime story who is being stalked by vicious creatures determined to prevent her from making the treacherous journey from our world back to hers. Story’s unique powers of perception reveal the fates of Cleveland’s fellow tenants, whose destinies are tied directly to her own, and they must work together to decipher a series of codes that will unlock the pathway to her freedom. But the window of opportunity for Story to return home is closing rapidly, and the tenants are putting their own lives at great risk to help her. Cleveland will have to face the demons that have followed him to the Cove – and the other tenants must seize the special powers that Story has brought out in them – if they hope to succeed in their daring and dangerous quest to save her world... and ours. (from MovieWeb.com)
Since the success for his 1999 sleeper hit The Sixth Sense, writer/director/actor M. Night Shyamalan has become what many have begun calling a "modern day Alfred Hitchcock." While M. Night might not quite fit the bill, his films have consistently stretched the boundaries of cinema, challenging our imagination, faith, and fears from film to film. His latest project, Lady In The Water is a departure from what we've come to expect from M. Night, all the while retaining a lot of the unique traits he has poured into his previous films.
The teaser trailer for Lady In The Water described the film as "A Bedtime Story by M. Night Shyamalan." This is probably the most accurate description that could be given to this film, as it withdrawals itself from the horror genre and more distinctly associates itself with fantasy. But while the premise and feel of the film is different for Shyamalan, his personal touches permeate the film -- from the beautiful cinematography, unique camera angles, and prolonged shots, all the way down to the eccentric characters and dry humor.
Lady In The Water features Paul Giamatti filling the shoes of the main character - a landlord of an apartment complex in Philadelphia. Kind hearted, quiet, and lonely, Giamatti's Cleveland Heep is a wonderful character that is easy to relate to and be drawn in by. This was my first time seeing Giamatti in anything more than a brief supporting role. I distinctly remember his contribution to films like The Truman Show and the remake of Planet Of The Apes, and it's nice to see him getting credit as a lead actor. The title character, a mysterious nymph named Story, is played perfectly by Bryce Dallas Howard as she returns for second outing in a Shyamalan film. The cast of characters that surround the central ones are just as unique and intriguing from one to the next. The director even gives himself a more significant role this time around as one of the building's tenants.
What I found myself liking most about Lady In The Water is the mystery aspect of the story as well as the thematic message. While Signs focused on there not being any coincidences in life with every situation having significance (and tying faith in God into that), Lady In The Water focuses on the theme of each person in life having a reason for being and a profound purpose. Shyamalan brings some spirituality into the mix as well, and when the film's climax reveals the meaning behind everything, one can't help but relate the result to the Christian life. I found myself drawn to the realization that God can use anyone He chooses to, even if they seem the least likely to be used -- whether Shyamalan intended this to be a message or not.
Lady In The Water is also the most tame film Shyamalan has done in recent years. With just a couple minor cuss words and a few bloody scratches on a character's legs to show for the extent of objectionable material, the only thing that warrants the film a PG-13 rating is the occasional frightening elements. And while I wouldn't ever consider this a horror or particularly scary film, there are some creepy moments involving a wolf-like creature that is likely to scare the pants off the younger viewers, therefore making the film less suitable for families. Regardless, there isn't much to point out or complain about when it comes to content.
Lady In The Water is Shyamalan's best since Signs and a film that will get overlooked due to its glaringly different feel than his previous films. Not really scary, but not really completely sweet and fluffy either, it's definitely a film that will be too intense for a younger audience. But if you're looking for a fantasy film that strays from the believable to craft a unique fairy tale about a mermaid coming to share its knowledge of the future with mankind, then you're in for a real summer treat with Lady In The Water- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 7/31/06)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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