Urban Cinefile
"I can't believe how lucky I am to have done that. Gillian [Armstrong] is such an amazing film maker, and Ralph is incredible"  -Cate Blanchett on Oscar & Lucinda
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday July 18, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



Apartment block supervisor Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) discovers a mysterious young woman in the block's swimming pool one night, Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), and discovers she is a narf, a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the treacherous journey from our world back to hers. Cleveland and his fellow tenants realise that they are also characters in this bedtime story. As Cleveland falls deeper and deeper in love with the woman, he works together with the tenants to protect his new fragile friend from the deadly creatures that reside in this fable and are determined to prevent her from returning home.

Review by Louise Keller:
M. Night Shyamalan's fascination for different worlds continues in his latest film, an absurd mystery fantasy whose premise explores having a purpose. The Sixth Sense worked on all levels, Unbreakable showed the filmmaker's vulnerability, Signs was problematic and The Village simply didn't work. Lady in The Water is ludicrous, drowning in its astonishing premise and irritating by its failure to connect on any level. Instead of it being a 'who dun it', the film puts its focus on 'who are the saviours' of the mysterious lady of the title.

The film bears a conceit that implies a certain knowledge privy only to the actors and the filmmaker. So when Paul Giamatti's troubled stuttering apartment caretaker Cleveland rescues a long-haired, wan nymphette (Bryce Dallas Howard) whom he finds swimming in the slightly skewed heart shaped pool at night, he begins a conversation with her that makes no sense at all. It is not until a little later in the film that a middle aged non-English speaking Chinese woman (through the nonchalant translation of her daughter) spills the beans about a fable, a powerful nymph from another world and the grass-covered monster that hinders her rescue to her own blue world by a soaring eagle. The stilted dialogue goes 'I trust you; I will not be safe; you believe you have no purpose - but you have a purpose; your thoughts are very sad...' The most interesting thing about the film is the idea of the characters, who might have been inspired by Hitchcock's Rear Window. But watching Howard making charade-like signs draped in a towel sitting on the floor of the shower recess, while all the apartment residents look on, is the ultimate cuckoo moment.

The big mystery is how Shyamalan convinced his stellar cast to sign on the dotted line. Giamatti is no slouch, delivering the film's most powerful scene towards the end while Jeffrey Wright's crossword fanatic and Bob Balaban's deadpan film and book critic are downright interesting. At one point Balaban's character says rhetorically 'How was the movie?..... it sucked'. Touché.

There are a pack of special features on the DVD, including deleted scenes, auditions, gag reel, features and a documentary.

Published January 25, 2007

Email this article

Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

(US, 2006)

CAST: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan

PRODUCER: Sam Mercer, M. Night Shyamalan

DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan

SCRIPT: M. Night Shyamalan

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Christopher Doyle

EDITOR: Barbara Tulliver

MUSIC: James Newton Howard


RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 7, 2006


SPECIAL FEATURES: Lady in the Water: A Bedtime Story • Documentary: Reflections of Lady in the Water • Deleted Scenes • Auditions • Gag Reel • Theatrical Trailers • Teaser Trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Home Video

DVD RELEASE: January 10, 2007

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019