Though I didn't always like the cinematography and editing choices, Lady in the Water is still an excellent film, discussing what it means to be part of a story, and the significance of stories in our lives. M. Night proved again that he knows how to keep an audience in suspense, and that he can make interesting and humorous characters as well, who seem like they could be living in your own apartment complex.
When a story is about a person named Story, everything is bound to have significance and symbolism. When Cleveland finds Story, things begin to change in his life. Story is the queen of a water people, a people who humans used to listen to but now have been forgotten. She now resides in the pool in Cleveland's apartment complex and must return to her world. But in order to do so, she needs the help of those living there, those who possess the powers and abilities to help the story.
But she comes to a man who is hiding from life and his past. Cleveland runs the apartment complex because it means no one has to know who he is, nothing he does has any seemingly lasting importance. He seeks to have no purpose, and in a sense believes it was stripped from him. Someone killed his family and he has therefore stopped living. But when Story comes, that all changes. Now he has a purpose: to get Story home. Story brings meaning to his life again, she knows his past and is able to remove his quivering stutter. He finally overcomes his fears and goes out of his comfort zone to save this girl. She needs help and so he will do all he can to protect and help her.
He must gather together a band of people to save her. Wielding only fragments of an ancient bedtime story, he does all he can to finish the story. Story needs the help of most of the residents, and by helping her, they also find purpose. She needs an Interpreter, a Healer, a Guardian, a Guild and more. And her Vessel turns out to be a writer. The Story needs a writer in order for her story to be given to others. She needs someone to Interpret the events of the story and provide the instructions and meaning for the others involved.
Since Cleveland is charged with the task of finding these characters in the story, he seeks what he assumes is the best source: the movie critic who just moved in his apartment. The critic, however, assumes to know everyone's purpose, and leads Cleveland to incorrectly identify the people the first time around. The story can't be about just anyone, the people must find their proper role in the proper story. Story lets them know that all people are interconnected, and the actions of one will affect all. Therefore, each person must find their purpose and fulfill it for the good of all.
One of the most powerful moments of the film is when Cleveland finally realizes that he isn't the guardian, but fills the role of the Healer. It makes sense because he was a doctor before he worked at the apartment, and with re-finding his purpose he is able to also rediscover his ability to help and heal others. But more importantly, in order to heal Story he calls out to his dead family. He is able to deal with his past, and it is only by finally addressing the issues that he is able to move on, his purpose is fulfilled, and the story is saved.
Story brings the adventure and events that provide meaning and purpose into the lives of all who know her. However, it also means they also become targets of the creatures that seek her. Throughout the movie, they all wonder why justice isn't being done, why the creatures aren't being punished for breaking the laws of their world. It is interesting that they are only punished, and Story is saved, when all of the people find their purpose and role in the story. Only when the weird buff guy found that he was the guardian and fulfilled his role in protecting Story, filling in the last person needed in the story, did justice come.
Though at times I felt things weren't always resolved and it wasn't the strongest movie, until I can fully understand the symbolism and am tired of dialoguing about all the implications of story in our own lives, I will continue to give this film a chance. And Paul Giamatti's performance definitely makes the viewings entertaining.