The lead character is Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a doe-eyed, orphaned woman who cannot speak. She lives in an apartment above a movie theater, next to her shut-in friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), and works as a maid at a local science research facility. Her co-worker-friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is always looking out for her and picks up the slack in the talking that Elisa can't do. Typically, the two ladies mind their own business, but when the white coats bring in a tank that has a strange half-man, half-amphibian (Doug Jones), Elisa relates to the creatures isolated existence. The two create a bond over eating eggs and jazz music, but not without the watchful eyes of Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and the evil Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) seeing the creature as a science experiment to dissect.
Those familiar with the work of Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth; Cronos) know that his inspirations in film come from different works of art, from the Grimm brothers fairytales, Gothic horror, Charles Dickens, to the Universal monster's collection. All of those inspirations are on display in every inch of the frame. The amphibian creature resembles The Creature from the Black Lagoon mixed with Hellboy's Abe Sapien (also played by Jones), while the major theme in the screenplay by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor that hovers over this tale is loneliness. Each character is an outsider in their unique way and searching for love. It may be off-putting to audiences, the thought of a woman falling in love with a fish-like creature, but these are people who long for a love they have been refused. There is a constant sadness about someone who has never been given the time of day, where the only solace one can find is in the connections made with themselves.
From a technical aspect, The Shape of Water is one of best films of 2017, including fantastic set designs, superb cinematography from Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak), costume design, and a gorgeous score by Alexandre Desplat that ties this dreamlike film together. On top of all of these things are flawless performances all-around. Hawkins work is truly a wonder, playing someone with zero dialogue, yet speaking volumes with her body and sign language. Two of the best supporting performances of the year come from both Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, as their work reminded me of classic supporting performances from movies in the 1930's. And then there is Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) who's acting has been so great over the past five years its becoming the gold standard. His work as the villain is hovering and haunting, it will send chills down your spine.
Yes, The Shape of Water is a beautiful fairy tale. They truly do not make movies like this anymore and Guillermo del Toro has hit his stride as one of the pure auteurs in cinema today. I was in awe of this experience, a love story unlike any other, diving deep into the beauty, and the world these characters inhabit. The Shape of Water is a gorgeous, refreshing piece of art.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: THE SHAPE OF WATER
STARRING: SALLY HAWKINS; MICHAEL SHANNON; OCTAVIA SPENCER; RICHARD JENKINS
DIRECTED BY: GUILLERMO DEL TORO
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
What if I told you that fairy tales could be brought to life? Would you believe me? Well, you would if you went and saw Guillermo del Toro's magnificent The Shape of Water. You would witness before your very eyes the creation of a story that is rich with fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and spy thriller themes. The sets and settings are so delicious you will want to eat them up and the cast of actors hit every perfect mark, The Shape of Water is a beautifully strange romance between a mute woman and a fish-like creature. This is a new imagination of Beauty and the Beast set in the 1950's that audiences will want to submerge themselves right into.