(In theaters, August 2006) I have written elsewhere that with every passing film, M. Night Shyamalan’s directing skills grow better even as his scripts are getting worse. Lady In The Water may present a pause, but it’s certainly no improvement of either aspect. Billed as a modern fairy tale, it may be more appropriate to call it a modern mess: All sorts of mythical allusions, but hardly any substance under the surface. While the direction is still effective (though missing the cleverness that so bolstered The Village and Signs despite everything else), the script goes nowhere and can’t be bothered to deliver an epilogue to wrap everything up. It opens with dispensable narration and thrives on minutiae, blithely passing by moments that should be important. It recycles the old “traumatized protagonist must do something good to redeem himself” shtick that Shyamalan has seemingly adopted as his leitmotiv. There isn’t much suspense, and whatever sympathy we have for the characters seems deliberately forced by Shyamalan’s heavy-handed touch. It’s not a complete failure: the multicultural cast is great (w00t for Sarita Choudhury), the images are often nice and it’s hard to fault any of the actors –including po-faced Shyamalan himself. A number of the film’s ideas have potential, and the character of the Film Critic is a lot of (wasted) fun. But in the end, it comes down to Shyamalan and his own self-indulgence. When it works, it works but when it doesn’t… –hey, look at the pretty pictures!