Lady In the Water

M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a true modern day Fairy Tale with his surprisingly delightful film Lady in the Water.

The film stars Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep, a property manager at a Philadelphia apartment complex known as “The Cove”. Cleveland spends his days maintaining the complex as well as interacting with the guests who reside there.

Cleveland is a very unassuming man who has a stutter that often causes him embarrassment when he is trying to hold a conversation. Life is busy but not very social for Cleveland who spends the majority of his free time in his apartment alone, and seems to have no social connections beyond his tenants.
All this changes when he discovers a young woman swimming in the pool after hours Cleveland is concerned what the tenants might think, but takes the young lady into his apartment as he suspects that she may be in trouble.

The lady is names Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), and she seems to possess an almost innocent naivety about her that belies her gentle nature. When Cleveland attempts to take the sleeping Story outside to rest on a lawn chair, he is confronted by a creature whose very nature exudes menace and danger which forces the duo to make a hasty retreat into his apartment.

Cleveland learns in time, that Story is a being from a fable that is here to contact an important figure in order to inspire them. Such inspiration is said to be a catalyst for events that will improve the future for mankind.

Naturally there are evil forces that wish to stop her from doing this and will take any opportunity they can to harm the frail Story and keep her from completing her task and returning home. This is a shock to Story, who thought she has completed her mission, and as such, under rules established by her people and the evil powers, is exempt from attacks and allowed to return home once a task has been completed. When this is not the case, and story is attacked as she prepares for her magical return, Cleveland draws upon the compassion of fellow tenants to protect Story.

Cleveland learns from a Korean tenant and her daughter about a legend that seems to underscore Story and her mission, and becomes eager to know more about the legend all the while keeping Story a secret as well as out of harms way.

In time it is learned what her true mission is and that a series of people are required in order to fully protect Story from the evil and allow her to accomplish what she is there to do, which in turn allows Story to connect with them and help many of them address the fears and concerns that they have thus inspiring and healing them with her magical abilities.

With a deadline rapidly approaching, Cleveland and the tenants must band together in order to help story complete her mission, and to determine which role each of them is supposed to play in order to keep her from harm and return her to her people.

While the film does have some scary moments, it is at its very core a fantasy film. The performances of Howard and Giamatti are strong and underscore that both are talents on the rise with bright futures ahead of them.

Shyamalan keeps the film moving at a nice pace that results in a tight film that does not drag on unnecessarily. Shyamalan is also plays a key part in the film and does solid work in front of the camera as well as behind it.

While the film may have a few plot holes and at times requires leaps of faith from the audience, it is a very warm film that blends humor and drama to create a very effective and enjoyable film.

4 stars out of 5