Making the Grades
Most of us are lucky to find the time to read bedtime stories to our kids, let alone write one for them. But a nighttime narrative composed for his children is the basis for M. Night Shyamalan's newest movie Lady in the Water. Like the original unsanitized fairytales, this one has scary creatures, a distressed maiden and the need for a gallant hero.
Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), however, seems like an unlikely champion.
The reticent, stuttering caretaker spends his days collecting garbage, repairing appliances and maintaining The Cove apartment building. But his mundane routine is shattered when a young female swimmer is discovered in the tenants' pool. The pale, naked intruder introduces herself as Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), and reveals she is a "narf," a legendary creature caught in the world of man and trying to return to her people.
With the help of an Asian renter (Cindy Cheung) and her mother (June Kyoto Lu), Cleveland painstakingly unravels the details of the Far East folklore surrounding these ancient beings. However, every new tidbit of the yarn discloses additional danger for the waif-like nymph, including dog-like creatures hiding in the grass waiting to attack. Realizing it will take more than his own efforts to protect Story from the evading beasts and make her way home, the maintenance man enlists the help of the other occupants.
After honing his suspense-building skills in The Sixth Sense and Signs, Shyamalan has established his ability to create films with a twist. Like his previous productions, this movie also incorporates the vibrant colors, creative camera angles and use of reflection the director's work has become known for, along with engaging performances by Giamatti, Howard and several other secondary actors.
While the interactions between the legendary creatures from Asian mythology and the complex occupants make for some startling and sometimes injurious encounters, the script contains only minimal amounts of other content concerns, including the arrival of the unclothed sea urchin and the occasional misuse of alcohol and cigarettes.
However, Story is more than a lost imp. Leaving behind the safety of the Blue World, her purpose is to help the other residents rediscover their missions in life. While younger viewers might be more prone to nightmares than inspiration after seeing this bedtime story, older kids and their parents may enjoy the mix of fright and fairytale in Lady in the Water.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lady In the Water.
In the film, Story reveals the future of some characters. If you could know what your future held, would you want to be told? What effect does the revelation have on Van? How might his knowledge influence his actions?
Most good bedtime stories have a moral. What lessons do you think this tale teaches? In what ways did the apartment tenants help Story as much as Story helped them?
Color and reflection are two trademarks of director M. Night Shyamalan’s work. How does he make use of them in this film? What other visual elements does he use to tell the story?