M. Night Shyamalan
Paul Giamatti .... Cleveland Heep
Bryce Dallas Howard .... Story
Jeffrey Wright .... Mr. Dury
Bob Balaban .... Mr. Farber
Sarita Choudhury .... Anna Ran
Cindy Cheung .... Young Soon
M. Night Shyamalan .... Vick
Freddy Rodríguez .... Reggie
Bill Irwin .... Mr. Leeds
Mary Beth Hurt .... Mrs. Bell
Noah Gray-Cabey .... Joey Dury
Joseph D. Reitman .... Long Haired Smoker
Jared Harris .... Goatee Smoker
Grant Monohon .... Emaciated Smoker
John Boyd .... One-Eyebrow Smoker
Apartment building superintendent Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) rescues what he thinks is a young woman from the pool he maintains. When he discovers that she is actually a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey back to her home, he works with his tenants to protect his new friend from the creatures that are determined to keep her in our world.
First of all, the poster is amazing. Very strange looking and yet fantasy like.
By now it must be revealed that this movie has no twist like you often see in Night's movies. For me there are tiny small interesting relevant twists but not major one. The plot is simple. A sea-nymph known as narf and calls herself Story is stranded on land to deliver a phrophecy to a writer she has never met. She must return to the sea via a huge eagle before her time is up but before she can do that she is being hunted by srunts, dog-like creatures who are sent to killed narfs. And so it is up to a janitor with a sad past and a motley crew of very varied type of characters who must figure out their purpose in this grand scheme of things before Story can be sent back home. In doing so each discovers their unique place in this world, the world being a small apartment complex.
What I love about Night's movies is that he often takes big issues and shrink it into a small world with very few characters and yet manage to give some powerful insights into humanity. Some may laugh at the words scrunts, narfs, Story or even the fact that Night casts himself as probably the one character that the whole messy thing about narfs and scrunts came about. Truth be told many may see that as ego in the making but you know, Night can act pretty well and I think his character, the writer that Story was looking for who will face a rather depressing end which we the viewers will not see is rather not so much involved. He is mostly standing at the back and the main dialogue and work rests on the shoulders of other characters, mainly Paul Giamatti's Heep.
Each character has his or her uniqueness. You may say some characters are type-cast but I disagree. I have no problem with strong or singular characterisation because that is what Hollywood lacks these days. And what is even better is this story I believe is pretty original and intense. Slow, yes very very slow but like the best dessert you have ever tasted, sometimes taking some things slow will only enhance the pleasure, and Night's movies are such. Even the slowest of them all, Unbreakeable has a message and I am sucker for movies with a message.
Night's stories are heavy with messages and his thoughts about humanity. They're not arrogant thoughts but personal observation of a man who refuses to conform to the Hollywood standards of boring rehashed plots. His stories may not be totally 100% coherent or original, but when it comes to a purpose, like Night's view of humanity and what each individual's purpose in this big world, there is always a message of sort. Hope maybe. Faith maybe. Beliefs maybe. His movies are quite religious, I sense the influence of Buddhism, Hinduism and even Christinity and that's why I love his movies.
Signs remains as his best movie todate. And in some ways Lady In The Water is like Signs. The characters are similar, you can compare the character of Mel Gibson's reverend who lost his faith in God after his wife's tragic death and how he regained it when he saw that no all that happened are pure coincidences and that God has a bigger plan for all of us AND the character by Giamatti who is a doctor who lost all hope when his family was tragically killed and he removed himself from the world and hid in a small apartment complex until he met Story and he began to accept that life is filled with a sense of purpose and therefore a sense of hope for the future. I find Signs and Lady In The Water very similar in theme and because of that however slow this movie was I very much enjoyed the story. Of course Night can't help but take a swipe at film critics but the film critic in this movie represents a section of society who think that they know what role each person plays and therefore what is good or bad for each of us. He could be a manifestation of arrogant world leaders who can't see beyond their assumptions and presumptions that sometimes some things aren't what or how they seem. There are more of such metaphors and interesting characters that those who enjoyed this movie can always come up with their own interpretation, their own views. That is the magic of Night's movies. They're not so restrictive that there is only one explanation and yet not too wide that you get suck into its vastness and get lost in the seemingly endless twists and turns of senseless plot.
Which is a great pity many left without finishing this movie. Watching this movie I admit requires a great amount of patience. You must not go in expecting to see a horror movie, a fantasy movie or a movie with twists after twists. This is not The Village or Sixth Sense. It is something akin to Unbreakeable plus Signs, but perhaps with more symbolism. Night says this is his most personal movie todate and I can see that very clearly because this is like a window to his inner soul, his beliefs. Not many writers and filmakers make such movies anymore with such certainty and such skill. Even taking away all the symbolism and just concentrate on the few minutes of thrills and horror, Night can still scare you and make you jump on your seat. But what is amazing is that this movie also makes you laugh in a good way. It is witty and I find some jokes or rather how the characters reacted very humorous.
But I have my complaints.
For one Story seems to spend an awful amount of time underdressed and under the story itself. She doesn't seem as prominent when such fuss has been made about her throughout the story. The speed in which people accept that Story is unique and a narf is quite unbelievable. The fact that people just follow along the janitor to save a complete stranger who says she is some fantasy like being is also a weakness in this story. Whilst almost everyone seems to have a bit of hesitation in believing their purpose in this grand scheme of things, they seem to have very little hesitation in believing the almost fairy tale like story of Story and her connection to everybody. In fact no hesitation at all. And the ending was abrupt. The only ending we are sure of is the writer, his sister and in some ways the janitor. Maybe I am too pampered with the usual Hollywood storyline of drawing must draw the intestines also. I can't complain much although I wished there was perhaps a summary of what happens to each character in this story and how they lived on after Story went away.
All in all, this may not be Night's best movie or his most profound or his slowest or most boring or scariest or funniest. It is like in between of all that. In my humble opinion, it may be Night's very average movie which for many dissenters translate as Night's worst movie. Which is a pity if many think like that. For an original movie written, produced, directed and acted by one man, it is a great feat. It made me think, it made me jump, it made me cry, it made me question my purpose, it filled me with hope and most importantly, slow as it was, it entertained me.
It is not a messy movie nor is it a great movie. It is in the end a movie that will grow in reputation as the years roll along because this movie requires some slow burn type of digestion. Like Sixth Sense (which I watched again when I heard a producer when accepting his lifetime award I think during BAFTA singing praises and giving the movie the highest praise ever) it feels different to me as I watched it again. It felt profoundly deep, relevant in my life. That is the effect of Night's movies and I am very sure a year from now the dissenters may feel the same away about Lady In The Water.
Watch this movie without any expectation and believe me, you may gain some insights into your own life. Night is still a master storyteller. I just hope for his next movie he does a 100% thriller because this man is also good at suspense.
By the way the musical score in this movie is amazing.
For those who has watched the movie and would like to read a very good analysis on the meaning of this movie, TRY THIS. You will need to create an account first. Once you did, look for LADY IN THE WATER and the scroll to the bottom at the message board and look for The Meaning Of This Movie, Pt 1.
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