The Shape of Water Review
One of the more interesting and unique films from 2017 is Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which is unlike any love story I’ve ever seen. At times it features situations that you’re not sure if they’re legal to be watching, but in the end this film is what I would call a curious masterpiece.
The messages of love and loss are beautifully expressed through its innovative plot, which features a mute janitor working in a 1960’s research lab falling in love with a humanoid swamp creature that looks just like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. That basic summary doesn’t do this film’s plot justice though, because at its core it’s a movie about friendship and the lengths people will go to for those they love, but it also highlights many social issues of a 1960’s America. Racism, women’s rights, and even the treatment of non-humans are all touched upon throughout this film, so while the main plot is very fantastical by nature, the core themes in The Shape of Water ring true even in today’s fractured society.
The film’s plot is so engaging thanks to del Toro’s direction and imagination, but also because of the brilliant cast that brings it to life. First off though, I have to touch on del Toro’s mind, which is more beautiful than ever in this movie. The guy does a bang up job mashing sexuality, vulgarity, violence, love, and friendship in a gritty looking world that could be as real as the one we live in. The visual style he brings to this film is so detailed that you could watch the movie twice just to pick up on all the peripherals. The writing, the score, the pacing, and pretty much anything del Toro had a hand in is damn near perfect, so this guy continues to be one of the most imaginative writer/directors in Hollywood, and I can’t wait to consume his next project.
While del Toro’s vision and high level of execution made this film look and feel so appealing, his cast also deserves a ton of credit for brining his odd vision to life. Sally Hawkins, who plays Elisa Esposito, the film’s lead, provides a flawless performance of a mute janitor who is searching for acceptance and love. She obviously doesn’t speak a line of dialogue throughout the film, but that’s what makes her performance so amazing. She didn’t need to be speaking, because she offered up so many other emotions just through her posture and facial movements. Hawkins just makes Elisa real, and even when things get weird you still buy into her emotionally thanks to how real Sally makes this very interesting character feel.
Michael Shannon, who plays the film’s villain, also turns in an award worthy performance. The character he plays is perfectly bad even though he’s not a straight up villain. He’s the epitome of white power in the 60’s, and Shannon did a stellar job at making the audience hate his guts. There’s one scene between him and Elisa that could win them both Hollywood awards, so between these two leads you couldn’t ask for better acting jobs.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Octavia Spencer and Michael Stuhlbarg, who also gave memorable performances in supporting roles. Spencer plays Elisa’s best friend Zelda, while Stuhlbarg plays a concerned scientist. Their roles and performances coupled with the leads definitely make this film an award worthy affair, so hopefully they’ll get some recognition this awards season, because the whole cast of The Shape of Water just nailed their roles with perfection.
If you watched The Shape of Water trailer and thought the concept looked a bit odd, you’re not wrong, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. In fact, you should go see it, mostly because of how unique and different of a love story it is, but also for the amazing performances given by the main cast. Not to mention the world del Toro created, which is a very unique but familiar take on 1960’s America, and one that offers up plenty of intoxicating visuals to see. Its message of love and loss is a powerful one considering the players, but it’s not so far out that your own emotions will discount it as fantasy. There are plenty of cultural lessons it offers that even ring true today, such as hating others that are different from you just because they’re different. It’s not cool, so stop it. In all seriousness though (seriously discrimination is bad) go see The Shape of Water if you’re up for something different that also offers up plenty of reminders on how we can all be better people to each other.
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