Some months ago, I commented on what I think is a tendency to judge Lady In The Water writer-director M. Night Shyamalan solely on the fact that he hit one out of the park early in his career. One of his first films, The Sixth Sense was an instant classic, and movie-goers couldn't help but compare his follow-ups to the "I see dead people" flick.
That's a shame. Because I think Shyamalan is the Hitchcock of our era.
Directors should be judged by how well they tell the story, and Shyamalan tells the story of Lady In The Water with a subtle grace and delicate pace. The story is about grace, after all, and finding one's purpose in life. Despite being told in what is essentially a children's fable format, I found the movie interesting and well developed, and taken to the level of near-greatness by the wonderful acting talent of Paul Giamatti.
Giammati's Cleveland Heep is a former doctor turned apartment superintendent. He works slowly and methodically, providing upkeep for the misfits who occupy his building. Heep is rather a misfit himself; after his family was murdered, Heep buried himself in obscurity and simplicity in order to hide.
From his emotions, and from his memories.
Story, the sea creature Giamatti finds in his pool one late night, is sent to inspire a writer (played nicely by Shyamalan, in yet another Hitchcock-like walk-on) who lives in the building. During the course of her mission she becomes endangered and is cared for by Giamatti, and many of the misfits who rent in his apartment building. Focused on a common goal, each finds the strength and resolve to assist Story in her journey back home to The Blue World.
Each figures out, as a result, his or her purpose in life.
Lady In The Water is based on a children's story Shyamalan told his own daughters. And it feels like a children's fable. But I think that's appropriate, given the premise. Children, in all their innocence and freshness, seem at times drawn to a purpose. Simplicity allows them to dream, and to aspire. Adults--heavily burdened by things like the Christmas season rush, boring jobs and overwhelming goals--too often lose our purpose. We adults forget, I think, to live. Shyamalan reminds us to live through Lady In The Water.
With grace, and with dignity. But always with purpose.