Release Date: December 1, 2017
Runtime: 123 minutes
Directed by Guillermo del Toro (The Strain, Crimson Peak)
Written by Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor (Divergent, Hope Springs)
Cinematography by Dan Lausten (John Wick: Chapter 2, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen)
Music by Alexandre Desplat (Argo, Zero Dark Thirty)
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Starring Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Godzilla), Michael Shannon (The Iceman, Man of Steel), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Bone Tomahawk), Doug Jones (The Time Machine, Hellboy), Michael Stuhlbarg (Men in Black 3, Seven Psychopaths), Octavia Spencer (A Time to Kill, Coach Carter)
I’ve just returned home from the theatre after watching The Shape of Water, and I’m not entirely sure what it is that I’ve just seen. I’m a simple man, so the most common word bouncing around in my head to describe the film is “weird.” Knowing that The Shape of Water was directed by Guillermo del Toro, I gave it a chance since I thoroughly enjoyed his directorship of The Strain. I also knew that the story of The Shape of Water had something to do with a peculiar, aquatic creature, so I went in hoping for a decent flick. There were some redeeming qualities to the film, but there were some head-scratching moments for me as well.
Before I dig into what I didn’t like about the story, I’ll start by praising the film’s actors and actresses. Sally Hawkins, being the main character in the story, plays a mute woman named Elisa Esposito, who has strange marks on her neck. She lives next door to a struggling artist named Giles (Richard Jenkins). The last film I watched Jenkins in was Bone Tomahawk, and much like his role in that film, he turns in a solid performance as someone who cares deeply for his profession and his neighbor. This was the first film that I remember seeing Hawkins in, but apparently she was in The Phantom Menace in an uncredited role. Since The Phantom Menace is one of Ethan Collin’s favorite movies, I’m sure he probably remembers her in that. Anyway, these two weren’t the only actors who shined in The Shape of Water.
Michael Shannon plays Colonel Richard Strickland, who is head of security at the undisclosed, government facility where Elisa works as a janitor alongside her friend Zelda (Spencer). With Strickland and Zelda, we get the film’s darkest and lightest characters as Shannon plays a great dirtbag and Spencer brings her own brand of humor. Strickland is exactly what you’d expect from a military man who is trying to establish himself as the dominant figure among civilians in the workplace. Then there’s Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays Dr. Robert Hoffstetler. Dr. Hoffstetler’s real name is Dmitri, and he is a Russian spy, but he is more interested in his work than he is in helping out the Russians. By far, the actors and the characters they portrayed were the best components of the movie to me.
Image via IndieWire
The story of The Shape of Water was not exactly what I expected. I went in thinking that Elisa would befriend a strange sea creature (Jones) that was being kept by the U.S. government for research purposes, and she would grow attached to it. The creature was worshipped as a god in South America, where Strickland found it, and I thought that eventually, the U.S. government would run out of uses for the creature and would want to dispose of it. But Elisa, with the help of her friends, would set the creature free and everyone would live happily ever after.
I was wrong on a few, glaring items. Elisa would indeed strike a friendship with the creature, but it would become much more than that. I thought that the sexual relationship – yes, sexual relationship between Elisa and the creature was unnatural and unnecessary. Perhaps it wasn’t unnecessary to the director. However, I probably should have seen that coming based on some of the film’s prior scenes. Near the beginning of the film, there is a shot of full, frontal nudity, so be ready for that. I wasn’t ready the first time, or the second, or the third. As I said earlier, I’m a simple man, and some of the scenes between Elisa and the creature were a bit much for me.
But I do realize that I’m in the minority on my assessment of The Shape of Water as it has done very well at the box office and has numerous awards. Even though I didn’t like some elements of the story, I did like the film’s visuals of 1960’s America and the colors that I noticed throughout – most notably green. Visuals played a large part in the film, and the most fascinating and gorgeous visual was in fact the movie’s object, the mysterious creature. His eyes were glossy, bright, and inquisitive at all times, and his colors were of a dark green hue with a mixture of black, yellow, and blue. Without a doubt, he will hold your attention when he is on camera.
My summation of The Shape of Water is that it is a very well made movie that has a rather surprising, left turn in its story – basically, it’s a Guillermo del Toro-directed film.
I’m going to give The Shape of Water a 68%.