M. Night Shyamalan: Ranking His Films From Worst To Best
Lady In The Water (2006)
Lady In The Water gets a spot as the worst film on the list not because it is poorly made (it is, but actually not as poorly as the next entry), but because of how self-righteous and egocentric it is. Here is a film designed as a sort of cinematic onanism that instead plays as an act of self-humiliation; a collapsing statue to ones own talent. Throughout the film Shyamalan wants us to see how smart he is, how bold, but he misplays nearly every crucial beat and only ends up embarrassing himself. Built as a fairy tale around a lowly apartment superintendent (Paul Giamatti) who finds a woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) in his pool who happens to be from another realm (The Blue World), Lady In The Water revolves around Shyamalan's favorite themes: faith and destiny. Howards character must find a writer whos destined to change the world before shes devoured by mystical wolves. Giamatti has to believe enough in himself to help her by finding a set of characters in the apartment complex whose destiny it is to help complete her mission. This all provides Shyamalan with a platform to riff and rant on character conventions, his own intelligence, and the uselessness of film critics (one character, a film reviewer, is violently eaten after incorrectly predicting which tenants fit which character archetypes). The cherry on top of the mess is that Shyamalan casts himself as the writer destined to be martyred for writing the book that's supposed to change the world. Theres a lot of ways to mock this decision, but critic Mark Kermode probably said it best when he stated that the decision is "like someone pouring petrol over their heads and setting fire to themselves. Ultimately, Lady in The Waters story is left too thin and unexplained for us to really care about it. We dont connect with its many characters, dont buy in to the mystery of the fairy tale, and are put off by the arrogance that Shyamalan reveals in his writing. The irony, of course, is that this probably could have been a decent film if it had been aided by better screenwriting that focused on its characters and conflicts more than its sermonizing, but Shyamalan's decision to focus on himself instead of his story dooms the film.