Four Oscars achieved should be enough reason for you to watch The Shape of Water. Guillermo del Toro at the helm should further the assertion that you need to see this movie. But if these pearls don’t push you into action, then this piece by the queen will do the job.
The Shape of Water splashes to life in the 1960s. During the amply publicized Cold War, we follow mute Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), who works at a high-security laboratory in Baltimore. As a janitor, she has access to top-secret rooms, one in which she finds an amphibious creature who is being held captive. A relationship forms between them. Our speculation of their union develops. All escalate once Elisa plots to free the creature from its chains and from those who conspire to kill it. Deviously, we are lured into this world of science, mystery, magic, and love; frequently deciding between right and wrong only to question if we ever knew the difference in the first place.
One scene that really stands out is when we see Elisa is in the bathtub, naked and pleasuring herself as water surges over the brim. Here, Guillermo del Toro and Sally Hawkins expose that they will disclose all in this film. The viewer will know all secrets and keep those secrets from the rest of the world. At this point, we make a decision to either stay in front of the screen or leave. Most of us stay. Our eyes are pulled to the sink, to a ticking timer shaped like an egg. As the movie progresses, we see the importance of eggs and the importance of time. Every second matters, from the highly competitive Space Race to the intricately planned robbery of the creature, and ultimately to the conclusion that when love appears, one must act quickly to keep it from disappearing.
This film reveals what happens when imagination intersects intelligence. This movie is one of few modern films that make me believe we have arrived to a time where, collectively, creatives have the ability to bring anyone’s imagination to life. Whatever Guillermo del Toro imagined is accomplished expertly and accurately.
Even the title, The Shape of Water, is realized skillfully. All parts of this film had a hint of water, from the constant rain to worn paint on a wall. Green and blue tones dominated the sets and wardrobes, constantly submerging you in this space and time. Equally, deep orange and yellow tones communicated desert landscapes, barren of water, as with the heartless, government agent Richard Strickland’s (Michael Shannon’s) home. This is one of those films that instantly draws you into the world. Even Alexander Desplat’s original score possesses an aquatic texture. The instruments narrate the whole story, giving the gamut of emotions felt in the film without saying a single word.
While the music and visuals delight me, Elisa disturbs me. Some of her choices make me want to elbow her in the neck. She reminds me of a few friends from my past, those who repeatedly told me about guys they wanted to hook up with even though I kept shaking my head no. This is probably why I like Elisa’s co-worker Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). Zelda is that friend who makes sane decisions and stares at people with a “why are you so stupid” look. I often gave that same look whenever I received the revelation that my friend let the guy put his little member in her pleasure chest. The scene where Elisa reveals that she slept with the creature exhausted me. It mentally returned me to many nights in Outback Steakhouse booths when I had to endure the “One thing led to another and then his peewee was out…” speech from the friend sitting across from me. Oh, the joys of wasting my time.
Truthfully, once I saw that Vanessa Taylor had written the screenplay, I knew I was going to be pissed at someone in the movie. Vanessa has caused many of my film-related tantrums because of her plot twists and character resolutions. Every show I can think of that a character or decision aggravated me to the point I had to keep watching, Vanessa almost always has something to do with it.
Out of the three or so characters that allow you to consume currents of comedic relief, Giles (Richard Jenkins) steals the show. He was the father in Stepbrothers, so whenever I see his face, I instantly burst into laughter. His performance is nothing but amplified in this film as he magnetizes us with his charm and quirks.
I could’ve lived happily with the humor, but fear is typically a thing to deal with whenever Michael Shannon arrives on screen. He is so good at playing bad that when other actors say he is a sweetheart in interviews, I can’t help but look for repressed tears in their expressions. He was literally the monster in the film, showing far less humanity than the actual creature. Only Michael can accomplish that and still have you like him.
Overall, cast and crew were remarkable in delivering this illustrious piece of work. The Shape of Water is a feature you must see at least once. It has breathtaking visuals. It intertwines well-developed characters. It leaves you constantly asking yourself how they did a particular scene. Trust me. You should not live without a sip of this film.
WICKED RATING: 9/10
Title: The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer(s): Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Stars: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon
Length: 123 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Romance, Horror