Lady in the Water

A tale to confound the traditionalists

?She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee . . . .? Edgar Allen Poe

If you know I love Twilight Zone, X Files, and Lost, you can predict I?ll favor M. Night Shyamalan?s Lady in the Water, a fairy tale about a mysterious young lady (Bryce Dallas Howard) who surfaces at a motel swimming pool, carrying with her the myths children grow up with about a nether world of sea nymphs, monsters who pursue them, and trolls who guard her.

It?s up to handyman Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) to save her from her enemies and himself from his own tragic past. Together with their redemption comes an entire community of motel dwellers, whose mundane lives gain significance as they help in the rescue. One of the dwellers happens to be a film and art critic (Bob Balaban), an obvious representative of the doltish, formula-ridden reviewers director/writer Shyamalan has encountered in his still young but productive years.

And Shyamalan has crafted a tale to confound the traditionalists with bizarre heroes and monsters, childlike wonder with imaginative fears, and childish delight at plot turns and character motivations. All of which makes for disorienting narrative, which, if viewed as an extension of the director?s ego, turns away some audience that sees only self indulgence (rumor says the director told this story to his children at bedtime).

For this reviewer, who is not above characterizing himself as a man-child, everyman Heep, like his namesake Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, pokes around where he doesn?t belong, mostly in everybody else?s business, mostly because that?s his job.