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[[caption-width-right:270:[[TagLine Time is running out for a happy ending.]]]]

Creator/MNightShyamalan writes, directs, and acts in this self-proclaimed, "grown-up bedtime story" about a UsefulNotes/{{Philadelphia}} apartment building superintendent named Cleveland (Creator/PaulGiamatti) who discovers a magical sea nymph named Story (Creator/BryceDallasHoward) who's been transported to this world and is living in the building's own swimming pool.

As this bizarre revelation sinks in, Cleveland becomes enraptured by her otherworldly charm. As he shelters her in his apartment, other inhabitants of the building begin falling into place as representations of characters from an Eastern myth in which these mermaids, or "narfs," coexist unhappily with more beastly and violent characters.

In human reality, the forces of darkness that threaten the heroes of a fairy tale prove to be much more terrifying, and the victory of good over evil is by no means guaranteed. Jeffery Wright, Jared Harris, and Mary Beth Hurt co-star, as well as Shyamalan himself, playing [[AuthorAvatar the visionary writer Vick]].
!! ''Lady in the Water'' contains examples of:

* AlmightyJanitor: Cleveland, to an extent.
* AndManGrewProud: The point of the prologue.
-->"Once, Man and 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 land. The magic world of the ones that lived in the ocean … and the world of men … 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 have been sent into the world of Man. They are brought in the dead of night … to where Man lives. They need only be glimpsed … and the awakening of Man will happen. But their enemies roam the land. There are laws that are 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 has forgotten how to listen…"
* AsianAirhead: Young-Soon Choi, the none-too-stellar Korean student.
* AuthorAvatar: Vick is a visionary writer played by Shyamalan himself. [[TropesAreTools Tropes Are Not Good]] as Shyamalan was further mocked for his egotistical casting and his flat performance. The existence of the StrawCritic character doesn't help Shyamalan's case either.
* BaitAndSwitch: Everyone for Story's team. [[spoiler:Cleveland is the Healer, [[DeusExMachina Reggie]] is the Guardian, the Guild comprises the [[RuleOfSeven seven]] women from the other apartment, and Joey Dury turns out to be the Interpreter, whereas his father was presumed to be the Interpreter.]]
* BlondeBrunetteRedhead: All in one character, no less. Story's hair is black the first time we get a glimpse of her, red from then on and most of the film, and blonde from the climax onward.
* ChekhovsGunman: [[spoiler:Much like ''Film/InglouriousBasterds'' is a tribute to the MagnificentBastard trope, this movie revels in this one. Literally every early background character becomes crucial to the plot later on. Reggie's role was foreshadowed when he talks about how he's doing his "exercise experiments" because he wants to do something special.]] He's also watching in the background of a lot of crowd scenes … y'know, [[spoiler:like a watchman, or a guardian maybe?]]
* ColorMotif: Like ''Film/TheVillage'', Story's red hair turning blonde symbolizes safety.
* CreatorCameo: Shyamalan does this in all his films. This is the first time he plays a major character. But just what his character will do — [[spoiler:namely, inspire a great world leader with his writing]] — ticked a lot of people off [[SmallNameBigEgo for obvious reasons]].
* DeathByGenreSavviness: The critic, whose demise is a thinly-veiled TakeThat against people who don't like Shyamalan's movies.
* FieryRedhead: Inverted with Story, who is quite mild-mannered, if not outright timid despite having gorgeous red hair.
* FishOutOfWater: Story, literally, since she's a narf.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: Early in the film, Cleveland tells Story that he was once a doctor. [[spoiler:In other words, a Healer.]]
* FriendToAllLivingThings: The identifying mark of the Healer is attracting butterflies.
* GenreSavvy: A main plot point is the characters discovering that they are in a fairy tale, but [[spoiler:they start [[WrongGenreSavvy acting out the wrong roles]]]].
* GiantFlyer: The Great Eathlon.
* InnocentFanserviceGirl: Because Narfs' ideas about nudity differ from humans', Story doesn't see the problem with someone seeing her wearing (only) a man's shirt.
* ItsBeenDone: The critic character says:
-->"There is no originality left in the world, Mr. Heep. That is a sad fact I've come to live with."
* LampshadeHanging: The critic points out tropes because he does that for a living, in his reviews.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: ChekhovsGunman is important and there are many of them.
* ManiacMonkeys: The Tartutic.
* MeaningfulName: Story has come to "awaken" a story in someone.
* MetaTwist: In the context of Shyamalan's previous films.
* MsFanservice: Young-Soon Choi. She's introduced with a shot that focuses on her [[BareYourMidriff midriff]] rather than her face, and is frequently seen in skimpy outfits.
** Story herself is an InnocentFanserviceGirl.
* MysteriousWaif: Story is a mysterious otherworldly woman who shows up in the building's pool.
* NeverTrustATrailer: This was marketed as a horror movie, but the first teaser made it look almost like a mystical romance.
* NoSenseOfPersonalSpace: Story is very close to Cleveland. The first scene with the Scrunt shows her cuddling up to him beforehand.
* NotWhatItLooksLike: Vick's sister assumes Cleveland and Story are up to no good when she and Vick see Story wearing nothing but Cleveland's shirt.
* OurMermaidsAreDifferent: Narfs are sea nymphs that exist to "awaken" people and get carried away by [[GiantFlyer giant eagles]].
* PleasePutSomeClothesOn: Hence why Cleveland gives Story his shirt.
* PowerDyesYourHair: A magic healing turns Story's ginger hair blonde.
%%* RedemptionInTheRain
* SavageWolves: The Scrunts.
* SavingTheWorldWithArt: The protagonist must save a writer whose work will cause world peace and harmony.
* ScareChord: Used here and there to play with the audience, mostly relying on Shyamalan's reputation as a director of horrors and thrillers.
* SelfMadeOrphan: The Tartutic are described as being so evil, they killed their parents as soon as they were born. ([[FridgeLogic One wonders]] [[{{Headscratchers}} how the species survives]], if they're that uncooperative.)
** There are only three of them, not a whole species.
%%* SexyShirtSwitch
* ShrinkingViolet: Story has a timid nature.
* TheStoner: Cleveland originally thinks five of them who live together are supposed to be the Guild.
* StrawCritic: Harry Farber exists to give the "no originality" spiel and get killed because he thinks he's SeenItAll.
** Creator/RogerEbert noted in his review that the critic is proven to be ''right'', and Heep misinterpreted everything.
* TakeThatCritics: The critic, whose demise is a thinly-veiled TakeThat against people who don't like Shyamalan's movies. This ''badly'' backfired on Shyamalan, for obvious reasons. Creator/MarkKermode pointed out in his review that the critics had championed his films in the first place.
%%* WriterOnBoard
* WrongGenreSavvy: Once the characters catch onto the fact that they're in a fairy tale, they assume they know the roles they should play. They're wrong.