Shape of Water Review

Guillermo Del Toro’s tantalising tale The Shape of Water has quite literally received a wave of success since its release.

It is an ambitious story, one that perhaps would not have been well received even a decade ago. Set at the height of the Cold War, the film lulls you into believing it is an innocent story as it is narrated in a similar style to the beginning of a children’s tale. However, despite it being pleasant, it is far from a child’s story and is proven in the quite graphic adult scenes.


Sally Hawkins stuns in Shape of Water Image Credit: Independent

Sally Hawkins stars as the main protagonist, Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner working in the secretive Occam aerospace research facility. Her life is simple and mediocre, following a step-by-step daily routine. That is until the facility acquires a ‘god’ from South America – a humanoid ‘fish’ man, portrayed by Doug Jones (who has previously played amphibian Abraham Sapien in the Hellboy films, also directed by Guillermo).

While the creature is abused and monitored by the facilities scientists, Elisa develops a friendship with the creature through food, music and sign language. Upon hearing the main antagonist Agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) wants the creature eliminated and dissected, Elisa, with the help of her friends, Giles (Richard Jenkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer), takes it upon herself to rescue the creature and take him to her home.

A romantic relation ensues between the two upon the lead up to the day Elisa plans to release the creature back into the ocean. As risqué as it was to include this element, it certainly worked. Their relationship was beautiful, despite no words between them.

What was best about this film, and perhaps the most important factor to consider, was that the three main characters were minorities. Elisa was mute, Zelda was black, and Giles was gay. Each factor was detailed in such a subtle, non-tasteless way.

I was quite touched by Hawkin’s performance as Elisa. It was clearly a difficult role to convey such emotion without words but she was perfect. You could feel her desperation, understand her curiosity, and enjoy her wit through simple gestures and through the use of sign language.


Guillermo Del Toro’s newest film stuns audiences and critics Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures  

I have never seen a film quite as beautiful as The Shape of Water. Make no mistake, although it is a romantic tale reminiscent similar to that of a warped Little Mermaid, it still has its horror elements. It wouldn’t be a Guillermo Del Toro film is there wasn’t at least a little bit of shock horror.

There is even a musical number mixed in, with Elisa imagining her and the creature dancing to ‘You’ll never know how much I love you’. As strange as it sounds, it was touching to see and a nice addition to the film’s imaginative aesthetic.

My only problem with the film is that it focused too much on Michael Shannon’s character, where it could have used those scenes to develop the relationship between Elisa and the creature.

Apart from that, I can honestly say this is Guillermo’s best work. It’s not a wonder why the film, director and actors are receiving awards and accredited high praises. Perhaps its success will pave way for more enticing films of this genre?

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