Lady in the Water

Year: 2006
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Producer: M Night Shyamalan
Writer: M Night Shyamalan
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, M Night Shyamalan, Bob Balaban, Jeffrey Wright
A lot of people (critics, anyway) didn't like this film. I've heard it described as everything from 'wet' (snigger) to 'soggy' (chortle).

I loved it. Here's the thing about M Night Shyamalan. There's no pretence about his films. He's a storyteller, and an unashamedly commercial one - not an auteur. His films are more like those of Spielberg and Zemeckis than anyone else in Hollywood. What's more, the idea of telling a story is even more front and centre here than in any of his other films. It's - as the tagline says - a bedtime story.

Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) is the mild-mannered caretaker in an apartment block, and a real life fairytale just happens to arrive in his pool, complete with a quest for a magical creature to return home, the demonic animals pursuing her and the forces and character swirling around the periphery.

Story (Howard) arrives, pursued by the fearsome scrunts, hoping to return home on the back of a giant eagle. It's all translated by the old Japanese mother of a tenant, who knows the old legend and what has to happen to bring it to resolution. After Cleveland brings others into the fold they start to identify the other characters and all take their place.

If the story doesn't satisfy you, there's Shyamalan's direction. Like few other directors, he wields his camera such that every shot is gorgeously composed, epic in quality and studious in portrayal. It gives his work a tense, grandiose edge that really sucks you in.

When he combines it with a truly oddball cast of characters and weaves a classic misplaced story through it (much as he has in all his other films - Unbreakable for instance was about comic book heroes in a starkly realistic contemporary world).

His use of sound and composition make him one of the best 'cinematic' directors working today, and this was a great tale to use to cement his reputation - for me at least.

I was also very curious to read he was going to get rid of the monkey on his back - the big twist. When it was so much of his appeal to some people, how was he going to get around dropping it so suddenly? Lady in the Water is so immersive you hardly even notice it's gone.

And if he's so schlocky, how come he attracts the best actors in the business to his films? Paul Giamatti and Bob Balaban are no lightweights.

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