The Shape of Water
Release date: December 1, 2017 (USA)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Screenplay by: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer
Del Toro gave us a new fairytale for adults! And it deserves all its awards!
The Shape of Water tells the story of Elisa Esposito (Hawkins), a mute woman works as a janitor in a secret government laboratory in the early 1960s. So yay for accurately depicting the sexism, racism, homophobia, and cold war paranoia of the time! One day an aquatic humanoid creature is delivered to the facility, and they manage to develop a secret connection.
This is a love story with the themes of searching for fulfillment and families with no blood-ties. And for all its violence and tense moments, it’s also very endearing.
The performances are great all around. With Sally Hawking shining through, showing a kind but strong woman, so full of confidence that her best friend doesn’t doubt she could start a relationship with such a “different guy”.
Talking about her best friend, Zelda (Spencer) is a joy to watch and a perfect foil for Elisa. She’s a fellow janitor and certainly talks a lot. Elisa is such a good listener that it almost feel like a therapy. Then there’s adorable neighbor Giles (Jenkins), a gay advertisement illustrator and a fellow musical geek. It’s obvious she has had a long friendship with both.
And while the heroes are these three outcasts of society; the villain is the kind of man who was accepted and even admired back then. Colonel Richard Strickland (Shannon) had a strict work ethic, but he doesn’t respect anyone who he sees as lesser; he has a lovely wife and two nice children, but he’d rather fetishize Elisa’s mutism. Strickland can be so menacing that he’s almost a caricature, but Shannon, an expert at being menacing, makes even the most over-the-top moments amazing. Hardly anyone can upstage him when he’s onscreen.
Another highlight is Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, who is more than it seems in so many senses. Even if his side story took away from the main one story.
Then there’s Doug Jones, the Andy Serkis of practical effects, and the go-to dude for Del Toro’s monsters. Amazing make-up and special effects aside, “The Asset” (poor guy never got a proper name) manages to be compelling as romantic lead without making us forget he’s still a wild creature.
The Shape of Water is one of the best looking films of the year. Dan Laustsen deserves that Best Cinematography Oscar for his great visuals and use of color. Then there’s Alexandre Desplat’s perfect score, that made you feel so many different things. The background songs and movies chosen were also amazing. This movie also works as Del Toro’s love letter to cinema, and it’s shown specially during certain dinner table scene.
The Shape of Water is a magical experience and Del Toro’s best film since Pan’s Labyrinth.