Lady In The Water

Lady In The Water


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

At a time when imagination has been found absent in the boardrooms of Hollywood, M Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, The Village) never lets you down. His latest carries you like a wounded fawn from fear to the incredulous without allowing you to tumble. The journey stretches the mind and chills the air.

NOTE TO MUMMIES: don't be fooled by the PG certificate. This will have mares galloping through your nights, let alone stampeding the dreams of your sensitive seven-year-old.

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If you don't believe in parallel universes, fairy stories or the power of the puzzle, Story's story will leave you as cold as her skin. She is a water nymph, a creature from the blue beyond, traumatised in naked air like a fish in aspic. She appears before Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), caretaker of a block of flats in Philadelphia, out of a swimming pool and into his arms. Others might have taken advantage; others might have dialled 911; others might have fled. Cleveland is a protector, a listener, a searcher of meaning in an existence too cruel to contemplate. He investigates what Young Soon (Cindy Cheung)'s mother calls 'a bedtime story', a Chinese fable that possibly explains the phenomenon of this silent, ethereal girl and introduces the terrifying scrats, powerful wild boar wolf creatures with grass growing over their backs, that attempt to drag her into the night and devour her. As Cleveland investigates the fable and empathises more with Story's fearful predicament, he opens his world to her predators and invokes the help of the apartment dwellers in a desperate attempt to find a way of sending her home before the scrats attack.

It might be said that the performances maketh the film. Giamatti is inspired, Bryce Dallas Howard (the blind protagonist from The Village) a mystery as Story and Cheung hilarious. As Cleveland tries to unravel the strange twists of the 'bedtime story' that within it contains the secret of Story's survival, he makes mistakes. The others join together as a group to test theories to save her, while outside a storm breaks and scrats advance through darkness to the edge of the human world, like spectres from Mordor.

Shyamalan's way of filming is uniquely his own, breaking rules of cinematography to create a tension within the confines of relative normality. Occasionally something happens that is beyond belief, but, by this stage, credibility has melted into the fabric of fear that smothers logic and invites commitment.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A lonely janitor struggles to save a lost fairytale creature.
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Read more Lady In The Water reviews:

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Moominkat ***1/2
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Director: M Night Shyamalan

Writer: M Night Shyamalan

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan, Freddy Rodríguez, Bill Irwin, Mary Beth Hurt, Noah Gray-Cabey

Year: 2006

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: USA


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