I can only assume all the reviewers I’ve read have ignored the underlying fable in Lady In The Water because the superficial story was too twee or contrived for them.
However, it could be said that most Hollywood storytelling is twee and/or contrived, so I remain at a loss.
I have a lot of respect for M Night Shyamalan’s skill and imagination as a storyteller. The breadth of his vision compares favourably with that of the better science fiction writers. His milieu tends to be more the supernatural, but like science fiction, it can be used to free the writer to better tell the story.
On the surface, this is a fable of a water nymph, comprising a very specific mythology which Shyamalan completely invented.
The overlooked fable, however, is more about the role an individual can play in a wider narrative, a greater good. However slight a single person’s part is, they can achieve wonders when united with the small parts of others.
That person can make mistakes, misunderstand their role – and may not even understand the greater picture. But if the good will is there, their achievement can be profound nevertheless.
There may also be in this story a smaller fable about the power of trauma to forge a humility in someone, that can aid in the greater good.
This is fable, of course, because good doesn’t axiomatically come out of good; the good can die in vain as the selfish prosper. But is that necessarily so? Who knows what ripples fan out from our actions? How long away before the small part we play manifests in some greater good?
A fable of hope, that can be part of reality.