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

Creator/MNightShyamalan writes, directs, and acts in this self-proclaimed, grown-up "bedtime story" about an apartment building superintendent named Cleveland (Paul Giamatti) who discovers a magical sea-nymph named Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) 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 other-worldly 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," co-exist 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:

* AsianAirhead: Young-Soon Choi, the none-too-stellar Korean student.
* AuthorAvatar: Vick is a visionary writer played by Shyamalan himself. TropesAreNotGood as Shyamalan was further mocked for his egotistical casting. The existence of the StrawCritic character doesn't help Shyamalan's case either.
* AlmightyJanitor: Cleveland, to an extent.
* BaitAndSwitch: Everyone for Story's team. [[spoiler:Cleaveland is the Healer, [[DeusExMachina Reggie]] is the Guardian, the Guild is the women from the other apartment, and the son of the man thought to be the Interpreter is the real Interpreter .]]
* 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: Similar to ''Film/TheVillage'', Story's red hair turning blonde symbolizes safety.
* CreatorCameo: Shyamalan does this in all his films. This is the first time he's 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: Averted 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, Story learns that Cleaveland 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: Narfs have different ideas about nudity than humans so Story doesn't see the problem with someone seeing her wearing 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 that's what he does for a living, in his reviews.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: ChekhovsGunman is important and there are a lot of them.
* ManiacMonkeys: The Tartutic.
* MeaningfulName: Story has come to "awaken" a story in someone.
* MetaTwist: In the context of Shyamalan's other films.
* MsFanservice: Young-Soon Choi. She's introduced with a shot that focuses on her midriff rather than her face and is frequently seen in skimpy outfits.
** Story herself is an InnocentFanserviceGirl.
* MysteriousWaif: Story is a mysterious otherwordly woman that 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 Cleaveland. 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 his shirt.
* OurMermaidsAreDifferent: Narfs are sea nymphs that exist to "awaken" people and get carried away by [[GiantFlyer giant eagles]].
* PleasePutSomeClothesOn: The reason Cleaveland gives Story his shirt in the first place.
* 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 reputation as director of horrors and thrillers.
* SelfMadeOrphan: The Tartutic are described as being so evil that they killed their parents as soon as they were born. ([[FridgeLogic One wonders]] [[{{Headscratchers}} how the species survives]], if they're that uncooperative.)
** There's only three of them, not a whole species.
%%* SexyShirtSwitch
* ShrinkingViolet: Story has a timid nature.
* StrawCritic: The critic 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 that 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 it was the critics who were championing 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.