Understanding Shyamalan’s ‘Lady In The Water’

Once man and in those in the water were linked. They inspired us. They spoke of the future. Man listened and it became real, but man does not listen very well. Man’s need to own everything led him deeper into the land. The magic world of the ones that lived in the ocean and the world of man separated. Through the centuries their world and all the inhabitants of it stopped trying. The world of man became more violent. War upon war played out. As there were no guides to listen to… Now those in the water are trying again. Trying to reach us. A handful of their precious young ones were sent into the world of man… They need only be glimpsed and the awakening of man will happen, but their enemies roam the land. There are laws that meant to keep the young ones safe, but they are sent at great risk to their lives. Many do not return, yet still they try…. Try to help man, but man may have forgotten how to listen.

These are the first lines once the film Lady In The Water begins. A film written and directed by Mr. M.Night Shyamalan, based on a bedtime story he used to tell his daughters. Shyamalan as a writer and director could put the words about “man may have forgotten how to listen” at the end of his film, yet he chose to put it in the beginning. He put it in the beginning of his film so man can listen and comprehend the meaning of what’s the film about and to undertand the moral of his bedtime story.

Lady In The Water is a fantasy film released in 2006 and received some unfavorable reviews from the film critics. They didn’t only trashed the film, but they disrespected M.Night Shyamalan as well. Not only the film critics are the ones who I like to blame, but some audiences as well are to blame. I understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let’s not forget what the film is about. This is one of the main reasons I am writing this, for I have been hearing things whenever a discussion takes place about this film. Some claim that it is a stupid film. Didn’t made any sense. And some claim that they liked the story and didn’t like how Shyamalan portrayed himself through out the film as a writer whose book is going to change the world. Someone will read it and will become the leader.

This project was Shyamalan’s riskiest move as a filmmaker. “The Man Who Heard Voices or How M.Night Shyamalan risked his life on a fairy tale,” written by Michael Bamberger was published after M.Night Shyamalan’s departure with Disney. This film was originally set up at Disney, M.Night Shyamalan departed from the studio over “creative differences”, and brought it to Warner Bros.

I have been thinking to write something about this film for over three years, but it’s the time that never gave me the permission to write.  I am trying to bring the spotlight mainly on the moral of the story to those who doesn’t listen or repudiates to listen. Please do not find this irreverent. I am aware that there are those who perceive the moral. See, if you watch films with an open mind and heart you get the point and you will understand the moral of the story. It can be an action, drama, adventure or fantasy anything. A filmmaker like Shyamalan brings meaning to his films as well. Every M.Night Shyamalan film in a way is unique. And his purpose in this world as a writer and director is not only to entertain, but to teach something valuable about religion, fate, love, life and purpose.

I don’t find anything obtuse about his writing, because as an aspiring screenwriter I sit and write what I feel and what I learn from life. No one can stop me from writing and no one can stop Shyamalan from writing and directing what he wants to tell, for he knows deep in his heart and mind that the story he is telling is important to others because it is important to him. Lady In The Water is a simple story. A fairy tale about a man name Cleveland Heep, a maintenance man who discovers a young woman in the swimming pool of his apartment complex. Gradually, he and his neighbors learns that she is a sea nymph whose life is in danger from a vicious, wolf-like, mystical creature that tries to keep her from returning to her home, blue world.

In this film, Shyamalan is trying to tell us that we are all connected. These are the exact  words of “Story” in the film. Meaning that we are  all on the same boat and this fairy tale also provides a message about purpose. We all have a purpose in this world. All of us has something important to do and due to these unfavorable reviews many didn’t see the film. Lady In The Water deserves to be viewed with an open heart.

There are plenty of good films and bad films that I can write a list about. Some are huge projects and some are simple like Lady In The Water. A simple and beautiful fairy tale written by a man with heart. It is an important film not because I am a Shyamalan fan or because you are reading this on his largest fansite on the net today. It is important because it carries a message that wakes the inner human. It’s an introduction of yourself to yourself.

It angered the critics because Shyamalan is pointing his finger at them in a way in this film. And what you have read and what you have heard about this film negatively is wrong. Yes, I would make some changes here and there if I would be the director, but again if you think about it every artist has his or her own unique artistic stroke. Overall, Lady In The Water is a film with heart. A daring film, a daring tale. It is important for us. I have always been and always will defend a film like Lady In The Water because it tells us something about life. It is that prescription written to heal the world. Our world still needs to be healed. We are the young ones who can fix it. Let us not forget who we are. We are all connected regardless of race, religion and culture. We can make that difference not only through films, but through any kind of field. We can listen. Continue to listen and let’s not forget how to listen.


  1. This was maybe his most difficult movie to make, since it’s something pretty personal for him. People use to think on him being arrogant because he puts hinself as the “person who’s gonna inspire great ideas”, but since the begginning his ideas are clear. It’s not “M.Night – the director” there, but all the persons who brings ideas to inspire and bring creation to manking, is kind of a homage to all the storytellers, in several different levels. It’s amazing how the more watch this move the more I discover small things inside it, like the many different forms of comunications spread along the whole movie: we see crossswords, another languages, visual design on the cereal boxes, hand signals, books, people having conversations apparently without importance, everything there is related to comunication and it’s part of the story. Another thing is the place itself that in a certain level is like the author’s head where we can see the characters looking for their place in the story, like the story is being written while you,re watching the movie.

  2. It also does make sense how the critic is treated in the film, he represents those who don’t think that a story should be lead by the heart, he keeps saying that there’s no originality today, wich is ridiculous, since the way the stories touch you depends on how they are told, not if it’s original. If a story catch you in a emotional level, it doen’t need to be original, but if you watch it looking for “originality”, you miss everything that it has to tell you.
    It is clear in the moment where Cleveland let his emotions rise and saves Story’s life, if he didn’t let hinself to be emotional, and not racional, he would put everything to loose, and coudn’t testify the Great Eathlon and all the fantestic moments in that final climax, that ends so sudden as it began, as something that only happens once upon a time…

  3. Fernando,

    Originality is fading and we have dozens of remakes, sequels, prequels and reboots. Studios are seeking less original work. Remakes and sequels today are just this corporative move towards profit which is fine, but Shyamalan is pointing that even film critics should realize that where is the orginality going. He is not in any way being disrespectful to anyone.

    Yes, you can be emotional from something unoriginal as well, for you can read many stories today and see films that are remakes. I got emotional watching LET ME IN, a remake of the Swedish film. And, I get emotional when I watch INCEPTION, LADY IN THE WATER, THE VILLAGE etc.

    • Thanks!

      I made some necessary amendments on the article. You guys are welcome to read all over again. Sorry. It took my 2 hours last night preparing it and now it took me more than 2 hours editing it. Enjoy!

  4. The movie is totally original and very creative, people right now sadly are over exposed by crappy reboot and franchise movies. But still there a people like M. Night who make good film based on a great story. Case in point JJ Abrams’s Super 8 that movie is a kind of movie that you haven’t seen in the movies for a very long time. It might not be a blockbuster but the story is very entertainment and creative.

  5. Hi Rohan,
    Yeah, I understand your point. I wasn’t exactly meaning that I was suporting the angry point of view over the critics, even because i didn’t even saw as exactly a “vengeance against critics” but, as I said, a reaction towards those who thinks that movies should be only rational, suponting only in things that could happen in reality, if was only like this, there would be no reason to tell stories in any media, i guess that was the point about the critic.

  6. About the remakes, i don’t really think it represents death of originality, simply because originality is a very vague concept. I mean, every version we see of the same story shows nothing but the current director’s vision of that material. And Hollywood aways use to do remakes, it is not exactly a modern practice. The 1959’s version of Ben-hur for example is remake of the 1910 version, and it was a great idea, because it saved MGM at that time. The 1956’s “The Ten Comandments” is a remake from the same Cecil B. Demille’s 1923 version, even the Francis Lawrence 2007’s “I am a Legend” is a remake of “The Omega Man” from 1971 wich is already a remake of 1964’s “The Last Man on Earth”, not to mention movies that have their plots inspired on another ones, like 1979’s “Alien” that have part of it’s plot based on 1965’s “Planet of the Vampires” or even 1977’s “Star Wars” wich has it’s main plot based on Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress”. What i mean here is that it doesn’t matter if the plot is original or not, but what the director have to extract from it, his point of view about it, it depend only on how he directs the story.
    And we need to pay attention on another thing, until 30 years ago the relationship between public and studios was completelly different. Today, with the internet, studios and audience are much more close to each other, wich, of course, causes a much more faster feedback from both sides. I woudn’t blame studios by doing remakes, since the beggining, studios need to make profit from their investiments. I only wish thei try to extract good versions from the plot, if that is the case.

  7. John,

    I’m eager to see Super 8, I love J.J. Abrams. That could be an example of what i’m saying, the movie is all based on elements from Spielberg’s 80’s movies and it’s being directed by someone who loves, understands and have a point on what to do with this material. I can’t wait to see it.

  8. @John:

    You can read my review on Super 8 at:


    @Fernando: I am aware of the concept behind the remakes in Hollywood. It’s been there for a long time now and it is not going to die. What Shyamalan does is “originality.” One of his characters says… (there is not enough originality left in this world) – which I think is true. I am not against remakes and reboots when it is necessary to make one. Shyamalan is a fan of cinema. He loves the movies and we will always see something original from him. And he is the kind of a filmmaker who will make a original movie no matter what.

    • Well, at any moment I said that Shyamalan did or did not make original movies, that never was my point.

      And Mr’s Farber’s speech “there is not enough originality left in this world…” kinda points to what i’m was saying early, it represents precisely the point of view that Shyamalan is aways trying to avoid in his movies; the idea that originality is based on rules that can never be changed, that there’s only an specific way of telling original stories, that’s why he breaks with that thing of having twists in his movies, he doesn’t believe in that.

      Remember that Farber talk about the fact the he hates love stories because they are all the same, that’s because Farber is looking for an originality that only exists in his own head, he represents someone who can’t figure out a story that doesn’t play by the canons because he thinks he’s already saw eveything possible, he does not pay attention to the personal touchs of the director.

      This is very explicit in the scene because of the way Shyamalan puts Farber’s face to fill the frame when he talks, he’s talking to those who watch the movie, I believe the critics that play by the canon got the message, and that’s why they got so angry about the movie, because truth hurts. Shyamalan is telling that the story is told by who’s telling it, not by those who think that already saw everything and there’s nothing new to be told, Shyamalan is proving there that that is not the way, the story depends only on what the storyteller has to say with it.

      That’s why next to the end, the narf is almost killed, because they tryied to go by Farber’s “wisdon” and everything goes wrong, Farber was not the one who tells the story. That’s whem we have the quote: “Who could be so arrogant to think he knows everything?”. As I said before, i don’t think it is a “vengeance” agaisnt the critics but Shyamalan is pointing to this fact, people should try to find the director’s intentions behind the movie, not if the story is original.

  9. well, I was skeptical and didn’t want to watch this movie. Today I was bored and just finished watching it. This film was underrated. The story and the simplicity in delivering a powerful message is something extraordinary. I think there is something personal between critics and Shyamalan, even with the last air bender they were criticizing him not the film. There are stupid film gained critical acclaim without any reason like “into the woods”. It’s 2015 and I watched the movie for the first time and found it still appealing.

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