Movie Review: The Shape of Water
Our theater finally received Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water this weekend after its initial release in December. In addition to directing the film, Guillermo del Toro wrote the script alongside Vanessa Taylor, and the film has already been nominated for thirteen Academy Awards. The story follows a mute young woman named Elisa whose life is changed when a creature is brought into the facility where she works. Sally Hawkins plays the character of Elisa with Octavia Spencer playing her friend from work, Zelda. The main supporting cast is also comprised of Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Doug Jones.
Set in the 1960’s, the film starts with some narration from Richard Jenkins’ character before transitioning into Elisa’s normal routine. She works at a government building in Baltimore as a cleaning lady alongside her friend, Zelda (Spencer). Outside of that, Elisa maintains a close friendship with her neighbor, Giles (Jenkins), who is trying to regain an advertising position. Her daily routine is changed, though, when a humanoid/amphibious creature is brought from South America to the secret government facility. Elisa becomes drawn to the creature after an initial encounter, and the story hinges on their relationship as the scientists and military leaders seek to understand more about this creature and how to leverage it.
The Shape of Water is truly a unique film with some of the most striking visuals I have witnessed in the theater all year. The set design and costuming is perfect for the time period, but there’s also this wonderfully whimsical nature about each. The theme of water is a prevalent one throughout the entire film, as one would expect, and I especially loved the watery transitions that were strategically placed throughout the story. The visuals for the creature were also stunning between the coloring and all of the little details.
The parts of the film that leave a lasting impression, though, are the powerhouse performances and the lasting themes of the film. It’s incredible to think about how much Sally Hawkins portrays without speaking, and Michael Shannon distinguishes himself here as a fantastic, monstrous villain. Octavia Spencer might have been my favorite character with her hilarious rants and observations, and Richard Jenkins’ performance was incredibly moving as he captures the best and worst moments for his character. All of these performances come together, though, to give a truly moving narrative. The Shape of Water explores what it means to be human, how we view others, and what truly defines a monster.
The Shape of Water is definitely a film unlike any other, and it was an interesting viewing experience. It earns its R-rating with its nudity and language scattered throughout the film, and while I enjoyed this movie, I can admit that this is a film that not everyone will enjoy. It showcases del Toro’s style and the fantastical worlds that he is known to build. The more I have had time to reflect on it, though, the more I become convinced that del Toro is an artist and storyteller unlike any other. With The Shape of Water, he takes the traditional idea of the beauty and the beast to new depths, and I cannot wait to see how it fairs by the end of awards season.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.