Lady in the Water is a 2006 American mystery fantasy film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard. The film follows a Philadelphia maintenance man who discovers a young woman in the swimming pool of his apartment complex. Gradually, he and his neighbors learn that she is a water nymph whose life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature that tries to keep her from returning to her watery “blue world.” The film received generally unfavorable reviews from film critics.
One evening, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti), who became a handyman at a Philadelphia apartment complex after his family was murdered, discovers Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), a naiad-like character (called a Narf) from the Blue World, in his building’s pool, immediately rescuing her from an attack by a “Scrunt,” a grass-covered lupine that lies preternaturally flat.
Story is here to find a specific writer whose book will better humanity’s future. After questioning residents Farber (Bob Balaban), Bell (Mary Beth Hurt), Dury (Jeffrey Wright), and five nameless smokers, Heep discovers the author, Vick Ran (M. Night Shyamalan), who is writing The Cookbook, containing views and ideas so significant they will inspire a future President, a great Midwestern orator, to greatly change the world for the better. Ran meeting Story eliminates his fear and sharpens his inner voice, but he learns he will be assassinated due to the controversial nature of his ideas.
The Tartutic, an invincible simian trio that serve as the Blue World’s peacekeepers, have forbidden that Story be attacked while returning home. The Scrunt nonetheless does just that, as Story is destined to be a great leader as well. To return safely, she will now need the help of a Symbolist, Guardian, Guild, and Healer. Story believes Heep to be her Guardian; Heep asks Farber, a West Coast émigré turned film critic, to help him figure out the others’ identities. Working off movie tropes, Farber misadvises Heep, leading him to a flawed conclusion that a logophile named Dury is the Symbolist, a group of misfit “tokers” are the Guild, and a woman who cares for stray animals named Bell is the Healer.
Heep asks Story how to “practice” for the confrontation but nearly dies in the process, convincing him he’s not the Guardian. The next night, Farber’s bad advice leads to their plan’s immediate failure. In the confusion, Farber is killed and Story is mortally wounded by the Scrunt. Dury suddenly realizes his son Joey (Noah Gray-Cabey) is the Symbolist. Interpreting the information on cereal boxes, Joey deduces the true Guild is composed of seven sisters, that two new men must be present, and that the Healer is male, soon revealed to be Heep. He goes about healing Story by “bringing forth [his] energy” (his suppressed grief). Story’s departure starts again, but the Scrunt attacks; it is stopped by the gaze of Reggie (Freddy Rodríguez), a lopsidedly muscled tenant who is the true Guardian. Reggie’s gaze, capable of compelling the Scrunt to slowly retreat, is distracted by the cry of the Great Eatlon, a giant eagle who will ferry Story home. When Reggie breaks eye contact, the Scrunt leaps, but is seized by the Tarturic and dragged away. Heep thanks Story for saving his life as she hugs him goodbye. The Great Eatlon lands, enfolds Story in one of its wings, and takes flight. Each tenant watches as she is ferried into the storm.
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First Published: May 6, 2012 – Last Updated: May 7, 2013