Lady in the Water

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Lady in the Water Movie Poster Image
More soggy than scary. Still, not for youngsters.
  • PG-13
  • 2006
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 23 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Disparate apartment dwellers work together to help a nymph-like girl return to her storybook home.


Monstrous, wolflike CGIed dog (covered in grass, with red eyes and big fangs) attacks and drags off Story, and ferociously kills a character (in briefly violent images and cuts).


Story's nakedness is mostly out of frame; Anna calls Heep a "player."


Minor profanity ("ass," "damn").

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

"Slackers" in apartment complex smoke cigarettes even though it's against the rules (they keep a heaping ashtray outside their door).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the movie features a fierce dog-like creature most often indicated by shadows or red lights (his eyes). His attacks (he crashes through glass, drags off a girl, and kills a character) are rendered in quick cuts, hectic camera movements, and victims' screams. The creature is eventually ripped apart by monkey-like creatures in another dark, loud, and chaotic scene. The film includes a couple of jump scenes. A few characters smoke cigarettes.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRarityfan2019 March 17, 2020

A Glass of Water

Classic M Night movie with lots of twist and turns and over the top funny moments from a decade long passed. In consumerism people looking akward at cererals.
Parent of a 4-year-old Written byCassie M. May 3, 2018

One of my favorites

This is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's not your typical Hollywood formula, has more of an indie/artistic feel to it. Very clever weaving of fores... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byWildAnatolian November 1, 2013

Lady in the Water

This is a very interesting and unique story that captivated me and my family very early in the film. While there is some very sad scenes and violence, it is not... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bymoviebuff6996 June 18, 2013

Silly and poorly made

Letter Grade: F
“Lady in the water has some great actors in it; but the movie ultimately is silly, slow paced, uninteresting, poorly directing and the twist at... Continue reading

What's the story?

Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) appears an ordinary fellow, a Philadelphia apartment complex superintendent with a bit of a stutter and shuffling gait. He knows his tenants by name, gently reminding them to follow the rules (no swimming in the pool after 7pm, no smoking in the units), but mostly keeps to himself. When someone starts making noises in the pool during the night, he feels he has to take a stand. But then he discovers the swimmer is not a tenant, but a pale girl named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard), who comes from the water (she calls it "the blue world"), and has arrived among humans in order to deliver what she terms an "awakening" to a very special human. When Story is attacked by a dangerous dog-monster called a "scrunt" (a CGIed creature who lurks in the lawn, then leaps up to rip her flesh with its big teeth), Heep assembles his tenants -- including a single father (Jeffrey Wright), a woman who loves animals (Mary Beth Hurt), a kid fond of lifting weights (Freddy Rodriguez), a philosophical slacker (Jared Harris), and a film critic named Farber (Bob Balaban) -- each with his or her own particular task to save her.

Is it any good?

More soggy than scary, LADY IN THE WATER follows a sad, inward-looking man's efforts to make sense of random violence. Much like previous protagonists in M. Night Shyamalan's movies, Cleveland Heep (Paul Giamatti) harbors a secret and finds salvation in a generous and heroic act. Once again, this act is prodded along by otherworldly and very carefully arranged forces. This time, however, the arrangement is awkward and overexplained, as if the movie doesn't trust viewers to get it.

Heep's own reading improves throughout Lady in the Water. His earnest enthusiasm, sharp wit, and utter commitment to saving his new friend Story suggest that effective readers look beyond themselves. Writers might also take note.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Heep's dedication to figuring out the story/puzzle, as this shows his generosity as well as his need to work through his own past trauma. How does Story inspire Heep and the other tenants? How do the diverse characters work together toward a common goal? How does Story's story become everyone's?

Movie details

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