Weekly Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

A woman’s life is changed forever when she develops a bond with a mysterious, scaled creature in a water tank at the secret lab where she works. As forces from hostile government agencies seek to destroy the creature, the woman takes its fate into her own hands.

The Shape of Water is a romantic drama directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak). It stars Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Godzilla) as the main character Elisa, a mute woman who works on the cleaning crew at a secret government lab. It also features roles played by Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth), Michael Shannon (Man of Steel), Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures), Michael Stuhlbarg (Steve Jobs), and Richard Jenkins (Let Me In).

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 10.55.33 PM

As with del Toro’s previous work, The Shape of Water is filled with fantasy. From Pan’s Labyrinth to Hellboy to Crimson Peak, del Toro has come to be known for employing magical realism in his films. This style may not appeal to everyone, but it certainly provides a worthwhile experience for many.

The Shape of Water is set during the very real time of The Cold War, 1962 to be exact. The very real threat of the Red Scare, the arm’s race, and social problems, including homophobia and racism, are juxtaposed with the fantastical elements of the mysterious creature from South America and the bond that is forged between it and the main character. Who is this creature? Is it a god? Is there a higher purpose at work here?

I’ll start off by saying that I really enjoyed this film. I thought it was beautiful. The story isn’t incredibly ground breaking in terms of overall plot, but it is told very effectively. This effectiveness is further sealed with solid performances from a pretty great cast. The cinematography is often breathtaking. I loved the feeling of the music. I just really enjoyed it.

Sally Hawkins does a fantastic job as the main character Elisa Esposito. As a character that never speaks, communicating primarily in sign language, Hawkins conveys emotion with her eyes, facial expression, and body language with mastery. Her performance is definitely one of the standout parts of this film.

I also need to give a bit of a shout out to Doug Jones, who is great, as always. Michael Shannon also perfectly portrays a villain that I just loved to hate. He plays a jerk so well. Octavia Spencer does what she does best here, providing the heart and comedy necessary to keep the momentum moving forward. Spencer’s role, paired with Richard Jenkins’ role as the neighbor Giles, aided in Hawkins’ performance. I thought the whole cast did their jobs very well.

As I mentioned above, the cinematography and music were very effective. I loved it. These two art forms came together to really show off the beauty of the story. I applaud Alexandre Desplat for the music and Dan Laustsen for the cinematography here. They did a great job. The set design is also really good.

While the story isn’t incredibly original, other than the subjects in the love story itself, it is still a beautiful thing to see. There were so many moments that really stood out to me. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face for most of it. There are definitely sexual themes in this. It breaks down barriers in that regard. It also breaks down a lot of barriers when it comes to love and disability. It’s a mature story. It’s a beautiful experience. I appreciated all of it.

One of the parts of this film that really stands out to me is a musical number. The main character enjoys the classic musicals, the ones with extravagant dance routines. In the scene I’m referring to, Elisa uses her love for these musicals in order to express the feelings that she cannot speak out loud. It ends up being a scene that is just as extravagant as the movies she adores, and I just felt so much heart in it. I thought it was so well done.

There are a lot of moments in The Shape of Water that stand out in different ways. I really enjoyed this film. I wish it had been promoted better because it really is beautiful. I almost missed it in theaters because the information I’d received about its release was incorrect. The Shape of Water was only released in select theaters. It never received a genuinely wide release. I wish it had. I wish its theater run wasn’t so brief.

I would absolutely recommend seeing The Shape of Water, especially if you are a fan of del Toro’s previous film, Pan’s Labyrinth. I enjoy Pan’s Labyrinth, and I would say that I enjoyed The Shape of Water far more. It really is a beautiful movie. It’s a modern, adult fairy tale. I hope that others enjoy it as much as I do.

Check out the trailer below!

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