***Contains Minor Spoilers***
Why Lady In The Water Might Be M. Night Shyamalan’s Best Movie Ever. Go Ahead and Laugh.
I know you are laughing right now. That’s ok. Laugh away. I dare you to read the rest of this review. I double-dog Scrunt dare ya.
“Hey, This Isn’t The Sixth Sense!”
Though criticized as a bad “horror” movie by some, to me, Lady In The Water was a fantasy adventure. If critics were looking for horror or something similar to what Shyamalan had done in the past, they were soaking wet while looking in the wrong pool.
When people get something different from what they expect, they tend to knock it down since their expectations are not fulfilled. Have you ever drank something, and it was not what you thought it was? That first taste is a resounding yuck.
I believe many reviewers’ reactions were only about that first bad taste. If they would have taken the next drink and the next with an open palate and an open mind, then they may have ended up reviewing the movie as a different, more satisfying flavor.
Tell Me A Story
Lady In The Water (2006) was written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. He had full control over the content. This seems to be the exact story he wanted to tell.
As most know, this film was based upon a nighttime story that he told to his children about their pool. He was criticized for thinking this was a story worthy of being made into a movie. My retort is this: how many classic stories and films started as “Once upon a time?”
Simple, Yet Brilliant
The tale is a straightforward one. There is a mysterious person who is swimming in the apartment complex pool after hours. This nymph-like being is discovered to be a Narf named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard). The superintendent, Heep (Paul Giamatti), finds her and takes her in since it appears she is homeless. Once Heep figures out who she is, he and others try to help her get home.
A Superintendent, a Scrunt, and a Narf Swim Into a Pool Cave…
Ok, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but you’ll forgive me for the catchy lead-in, right?
It turns out that Story lives in a cave under the pool and survives by storing what little oxygen she needs in upside-down jars and cups. She also takes and keeps trinkets left behind by the pool guests.
I am not sure why, but sometimes the movie seems more like a play. Maybe it is the vast set that was built for the courtyard and pool scenes that made it appear that way. This aspect or feel of the show might have turned viewers off to the film.
I felt it made the movie more personal, like I was right there with them. It seemed I was more of a direct participant or an extra in the play but without any lines. Due to this, I felt much more connected to the movie.
Wait, Is This a Shell Game?
For such a simple premise, there are many moving parts to this movie. This is the film's greatest strength, yet also its major weakness.
If the audience misses a detail and doesn’t follow along, the developing character arcs and the overall plotline can become hazy at best and frustratingly confusing at worst. If the audience didn’t get the point of the movie or understand what is going on, I could see why many viewers did not enjoy it.
If you were able to catch the intricate details, what a beautiful, hopeful spin of yarn this becomes. Unlikely strangers come together to battle an evil that threatens the very existence of one young lady. Wait, are we talking about Stranger Things here? Hmmm.
Does Everyone Know Their Role and Their Purpose?
I won’t get into every detail, but this is the heart of the movie. It turns out that Story is from another place called the Blue World and will become their leader in time.
The Scrunt is basically a vicious wolf that can disguise itself as grass. It wants to kill Story to prevent her from returning to their world. Through an old Korean tale, they figure out that a group of people filling specific roles are needed to work together to protect Story.
Unfortunately, all of their roles are wrongly interpreted and assigned, and Story almost dies. This failure does not detract from them continuing to work together for this higher purpose than themselves.
What Makes It So Great?
The humanity of the movie. Pure and simple.
For me, Lady in the Water is a Batteries Not Included (1987), and The Goonies (1985) feel good mashup. But instead of saving the apartment building in Batteries or saving a neighborhood in Goonies, in Lady, they save Story. In all three of these movies, they help something or someone else. In Batteries Not Included, they save the robot and themselves. In The Goonies, they save Sloth and all of their friendships.
The characters in each of these movies find it within themselves to care about someone or something else enough to sacrifice whatever they must to help another. In Shyamalan’s film, each character overcomes an issue, a phobia, or something within them that, in the past, prevented each one from reaching out to others. Each faced their fear, not for themselves, but for another person or thing.
But Is It A Puzzle?
Most M. Night Shyamalan movies have some plot twist to them. Lady In The Water does not disappoint there. I would argue there is also a more significant, more profound twist within the entire movie. I believe those that tossed the film aside failed to even consider anything more than the face value of the story itself. I would also guess that it is precisely how Shyamalan wanted it.
If a moral or lesson is too apparent, people get annoyed and dismiss it offhand. If it is hidden within the details of the movie and needs to be pieced together…aaaaah…then it becomes a discovered pearl within an ocean of oysters. It becomes something worthwhile since you found it yourself. You busted the code.
If you took the time to delve into the deeper meaning of this superb work of art, I congratulate you. If you didn’t, then please, give the movie another chance. You might be surprised.
Shyamalan, The Bad Boy
Many criticized Shyamalan’s choice to create and play a character who was a writer who would eventually be influential enough to save the world through his writing. They considered this Shyamalan’s self-indulgence.
The critics seemed to suggest that he thought he was better than others because of his writing. They did not say this about the character he played, but about Shyamalan himself.
You know what? Writers and their works have influenced the world since the beginning.
If writers can help save the world, I am all for it. The negativity that some people have and choose to keep in their lives sometimes enters into their work and their interpretation of the world around them. In other words, negativity breeds negativity.
The Big Question
The question is this? Can you be entertained while at the same time listen to a belief that might make the world a better place?
Of course, you can.
Most of us all love when the good eventually triumphs over the bad. When the evil is destroyed or at least knocked down a rung or two, Look at Captain Marvel, Us, Star Wars, Frozen, Black Panther, The Princess Bride, Avengers: Endgame, Spiderman: Far From Home, Toy Story, Wonder Woman, Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse, Dumbo, Dark Phoenix. Wonder. The list of movies is endless.
The Lady in the Water is a simple tale of everyday people working together and overcoming obstacles to push back evil to save another living being. It doesn’t get any better than that.
The challenge is this. Below is a list of Shyamalan’s other major films. If you like, please choose which movie you think is better than Lady In The Water and state why.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Village (2004)The Happening (2008)
The Last Airbender (2010)
After Earth (2013)
The Visit (2015)
His New Show Servant
If you are a fan of Shyamalan, you can check out his latest TV show Servant soon. The 1st three episodes release on November 28th, exclusively on Apple TV Plus. A second season has already been approved.
This is BrianZFandom taking a brief, shallow underwater excursion into the past with a Narf in Lady In The Water.
You can follow me on Twitter BrianZFandom @BrianPiotrzkow1