Lady in the Water


Lady in the Water

Critics Consensus

A far-fetched story with little suspense and unconvincing scenarios, Lady In The Water feels contrived, pretentious, and rather silly.



Total Count: 212


Audience Score

User Ratings: 419,544
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Movie Info

A modest building manager named Cleveland Heep rescues a mysterious young woman from danger and discovers she is actually a narf, a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the treacherous journey from our world back to hers. Cleveland and his fellow tenants start to realize that they are also characters in this bedtime story. As Cleveland falls deeper and deeper in love with the woman, he works together with the tenants to protect his new fragile friend from the deadly creatures that reside in this fable and are determined to prevent her from returning home.


Paul Giamatti
as Cleveland Heep
Bob Balaban
as Harry Farber
Cindy Cheung
as Young-Soon Choi
Bill Irwin
as Mr. Leeds
Mary Beth Hurt
as Mrs. Bell
Noah Gray-Cabey
as Joey Dury
Jared Harris
as Goatee Smoker
Joseph D. Reitman
as Long Haired Smoker
Grant Monohon
as Emaciated Smoker
John Boyd
as One-Eyebrow Smoker
Ethan Cohn
as Glasses Smoker
June Kyoko Lu
as Mrs. Choi
Tovah Feldshuh
as Mrs. Bubchik
Tom Mardirosian
as Mr. Bubchik
June Kyoto Lu
as Mrs. Choi
Maricruz Hernandez
as Perez de la Torre Sister No. 1
Carla Jimenez
as Perez de la Torre Sister No. 2
Natasha Perez
as Perez de la Torre Sister No. 3
Monique Gabriela Curnen
as Perez de la Torre Sister No. 4
Marilyn Torres
as Perez de la Torre Sister No. 5
George Bass
as Mr. Perez de la Torre
Nell Johnson
as Phone Message
Walter Lafty
as Silvertide Band Member
Mark Melchiorre Jr.
as Silvertide Band Member
Kevin Frank
as Silvertide Band Member
Brian Weaver
as Silvertide Band Member
Nick Perri
as Silvertide Band Member
Jeremy Howard
as Tartutic No. 1
Brian Steele
as Tartutic No. 2
Kurt Carley
as Tartutic No. 3
Doug Jones
as Tartutic No. 4
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Critic Reviews for Lady in the Water

All Critics (212) | Top Critics (49) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (159)

  • Still, the multicultural cast is fun, the images have a painterly beauty and there are some beguiling comic touches before the story sinks into a swamp of solemn metaphysical glop.

    Feb 6, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • [Perhaps it's] improvised and protracted, nonsensically and unnecessarily, just for the sake of stringing us along. And, maybe, putting us to sleep.

    Sep 13, 2006 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
  • This pretentious, humourless (except for a joke-about-a-joke centring on the film critic) movie is breathtaking in its absurdity.

    Aug 12, 2006 | Full Review…

    Philip French

    Top Critic
  • What was [Shyamalan] thinking? This isn't just duff, it's career-threatening catastrophic.

    Aug 10, 2006 | Full Review…
  • There are some laughs to be had, albeit not always in the right places. A resounding plop.

    Aug 8, 2006 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • despite the childlike nature of the story, Lady in the Water will prove too confusing for most kids, which is a shame, since they're also the ones most like to greet that giant-eagle business with something other than a derisive laugh.

    Jul 21, 2006 | Rating: 2/4

Audience Reviews for Lady in the Water

  • Oct 03, 2013
    You know, when I see this film's title, for whatever reason, I can't help but think of PJ Harvey's "Down by the Water", and while that doesn't mean that I'm going to quote lyrics from that song, - seeing as how I try to avoid quoting '90s songs if I can - it is to say that there is some irony in my thinking of that song, seeing as how it's probably creepier than this "thriller". ...Huh, actually, I say that like that song doesn't raise too high of a standard when it comes to creepiness, but you can take only so much of PJ Harvey whispering, "Little fish, big fish, lady"-I mean, "swimming in the water, come back here, man, gimme my daughter" behind a brooding synthesized organ and stinging string section before you either say, "That's '90s music for you: either straight depressing or depressingly bad", or, "Jeez, PJ, when does the fade-out kick in?". Oh man, I just realized that I ended up quoting that blasted '90s song after all, but hey, the line I was referring to was just a rip-off of "Salty Dog Blues" (Early 1900s, now that's rock so classic that it predated rock, so you know I'm going to be quoting it), and at any rate, what, do you expect me to actually talk about this movie? Seriously though, I am one to get off of the subject to talk about music, but then again, this film does the same thing. No, seriously, I mean that it does the "exact" same thing, because James Newton Howard's score is probably more interesting than the film itself, though that's not to say that Bryce Dallas Howard's legs keep you a little invested in the visual happening of this film. ...Okay, they're not all that, but they're not too shabby, and yet, the real fact of the matter is that she is most certainly not playing Amish in this M. Night Shyamalan film, you know, as if you didn't get a big enough hint regarding her limitations in purity from her being trailed by bizarre, otherworldly creatures, like Paul Giamatti. I'm kidding, Paul, you're apparently cool enough to be hooking up with Bryce Dallas Howard, even if you're tastes in projects aren't consistently strong, because even though this film isn't as messy as they say, it has its fair share of problems. I'm not asking for all that much uniqueness out of this film, and limited uniqueness is exactly what this film's story concept promises, yet not to a degree I was expecting, because there are some genuinely refreshing areas to this premise, and more often than not, they go undercut by a conventional interpretation, whose familiarity sends this narrative down a predictable road that may hit some unpredictably strange areas, but reaches those moments through a formulaic path that isn't even walk upon briskly. At least in recent years, it's become difficult to determine whether or not a film by M. Night Shyamalan will be mighty limp or reasonably entertaining, but I'm here to settle your concerns and boast that this film is, in fact, slow, at least on the whole, as there are some fun bits here and there throughout the final product, yet they go bridged by atmospheric dry spells that quiet things down and bland things up, while stiffening pacing. The film isn't glacial, but you feel most every one of this effort's 109, sometimes gratuitous minutes, and when things really do kick in, the jerk is sometimes unnerving, thus plaguing the final product with a pacing inconsistency that limps storytelling along, though isn't exactly the only form of unevenness in storytelling. The film juggles all kinds of tones, and I've got to give some credit to this effort for its conceptual layers, but in execution, those layers don't stack together comfortably, as the film jars back and forth between tense drama, if not "thrills", and light fluffiness, though at least keeps consistent in some kind of a cheesiness, whether when it's plaguing the fluffier bits with some fall-flat comic relief, or tainting the dramatic - if you'll forgive me - "waters" with histrionics. Tone is uneven in this film, and that shakes consistency in focus, but only when there is, in fact, focus, something that is limited in this film, which drags along and bloats itself with too much material and filler, trying to pump up a narrative that has only so many places where it needs to be pumped up, and plenty of flawed areas for ambition to emphasize. I commend this film for going the way of plenty of Shyamalan films and putting its heart in the right place, but alas, much like the gunner man, Jimmy the Saint and the Whiz-Bang Gang from uptown, ambition gets "lost in the flood" (A reference to this film's water theme and a Bruce Springsteen song at the same time, now that's how it's... forcibly done, son), not to where a decent film is lost, but certainly to where potential is "watered" down by ambition's questionable decisions and reflection on other missteps. Still, the film doesn't "sink" as deeply as, well, my water puns, nor does it fall flat as much as they say, being flawed, sure, but enjoyable, even on a musical level. Okay, in the opener, I joked that James Newton Howard's score is perhaps more interesting than the film itself, and make no mistake, that was a joke, because this isn't one of Howard's strongest efforts as M. Night Shyamalan's go-to score composer, as his efforts are formulaic and often too minimalist to be all that exciting, but on the whole, Howard delivers quite a bit, being generally effective in his thoughtful, almost Danny Elfman type of taste in whimsy, controlled with enough minimalism to be atmospherically effective. There's a lot of atmosphere to the film's score work, alone, and such atmosphere is not only musically engaging, but perhaps more effective than much of the atmosphere within directorial storytelling, and some stylish filming further immerses you, so on an artistic level, the film is inspired enough to actually breathe some life into substance, which deserves compliments. As I said earlier, the film's conceptual refreshingness is betrayed by a conventional and often even limp interpretation, but still stands, at least on paper, inspiring a hint of immediate engagement value that goes augmented by the commendable areas within the basic premise itself, because no matter how overblown the film's story may be, the aspects that actually belong to this subject matter are reasonably worthy, backed by an intriguing, if often silly mythology, and some engaging dramatic elements. The film's story concept isn't that strong, but potential is still visible enough keep you from fall too far away, and when it is emphasized by what M. Night Shyamalan does reasonably well as director, I must admit that I was pretty intrigued, because even though Shyamalan's aimless meditations often bland things up, it sometimes soak up enough genuine intrigue to entertain adequately, if not tense things up a touch. If nothing else, Shyamalan's perhaps overly ambitious direction has a certain charm to that endeared me, because even though Shyamalan's directorial missteps are rarely, if ever so faulty that I found myself fearing the seriously mediocre final product that plenty are saying this is, there's enough heart behind this sloppy project to keep up some degree of engagement value, which is most secured by, of all things, the onscreen talents. The film doesn't have enough material to be especially well-acted, but to my pleasant surprise, acting is arguably the final product's strongest element, with even most everyone in the supporting cast proving to be memorably charming, while the leads particularly deliver, whether when we're talking about Bryce Dallas Howard, - who is subtly convincing as an otherworldly being fearing for her life as she struggles to save the lives of many others - or Paul Giamatti, who is charismatic, with a convincing stutter and portrayal of an ordinary man who finds himself caught up in extraordinary situations. Howard steals the show, while Giamatti carries it, which isn't to say that this cast isn't comprised of enjoyable performers, who ultimately prove to be more endearing than the film itself, yet aren't exactly the only endearing elements out of this film, whose entertainment value and effective moments proves to be enough to make an enjoyable, if improvable final product. When the waters have passed by, conventional, often dry, sometimes tonally uneven, and rather unfocused storytelling betray potential and leave the final product to wash up as underwhelming, but never be truly pulled down into mediocrity, as there is enough decent score work, conceptual intrigue, charming, if not effective direction and strong acting to keep "Lady in the Water" flowing along as a pretty enjoyable and often reasonably engaging fantasy drama, even if it is a touch too watered down for its own good. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 25, 2012
    I'm not sure why this film was made.
    Jason 123 D Super Reviewer
  • May 26, 2012
    Lady in the Water is another visionary film from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. The film brilliantly merges a fairytale into modern day life; when a water nymph comes to our world on a mission, things go wrong and she needs the help of a group of special people to get back home. Paul Giamatti and Bryce Dallas Howard lead the cast and give strong performances. It's especially impressive how the film progresses from the ordinary to the supernatural in such a subtle way as to draw the audience into the story. And, James Newton Howard provides an enchanting and magical score that heightens the fantasy themes. There are some flaws, but Lady in the Water delivers an imaginative and mystical adventure that's both entertaining and uplifting.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 21, 2012
    Shyamalan's more personal project seems interesting but very ludicrous and silly at times. Some parts are convincing, others arn't so much, his second flop couldn't save much from his writing.
    Luke E Super Reviewer

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