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Lady In The Water
Time Out says
M Night starts as he means to go on: portentous. An animated prologue berates arrogant humanity for wilfully ignoring the mystical insights of the sea creatures who were once our brethren. Cut to modern-day Philadelphia, where apartment block janitor Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti, in full-on st-st-stuttering schlump mode) is riled that somebody’s been in the swimming pool after hours. Not just anybody of course, but a sea-nymph or ‘narf’ (Bryce Dallas Howard, reprising wide-eyed innocence from ‘The Village’, only wetter), who calls herself ‘Story’ and says she’s from ‘the Blue World’. All of which is moderately intriguing, until it’s time to ask the Korean lady on the second floor what it all means, prompting her (‘Asian Wisdom’?) to regale us with the legend of a water-faerie who’ll come to inspire a human vessel to greatness before being retrieved by a giant eagle called the Great Eatlon. Unless, that is, the red-eyed killer scrunts in the undergrowth get her first…
It would be nice to credit Shyamalan with having enough faith in the power of storytelling to invent his own mythology, but the high-handed, hectoring insistence on unlocking mankind’s hidden potential really does inspire resistance, while the rigmarole of explaining the myth then applying it to the world of the astonishingly gullible apartment dwellers proves grindingly uninvolving when shoe-horned into suspense thriller format. Although Chris Doyle’s seaweed-hued cinematography gives the proceedings a certain visual allure, Giamatti’s emotional commitment to the role only illuminates the hollowness of the material, which offers a plum self-serving part to Shyamalan the performer. What was he thinking? This isn't just duff, it’s career-threatening catastrophic.