‘The Shape of Water’ sounds weird, right?
A mute janitor woman working at government facility falls in love with a fish man? Weird, but it’s weird in the best way ever. It’s a love story that’s incredibly human while simultaneously being a great monster movie. Guillermo del Toro being able to combine those two things into one fantastic movie shows that he’s earned the Oscar nomination for Best Director. The film’s other Oscar nominations include Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Music Score, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design. The first question I’ve been asked after telling someone I watched ‘The Shape of Water’ is, “Was it worth all those Oscar Nominations?”
‘The Shape of Water’ is the story of a mute janitorial worker, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), who works at a top secret government facility in the 1960’s. She lives in an apartment above a movie theater next to a painter, Giles (Richard Jenkins), her only other friend is her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Shortly after Eliza and Zelda assigned to clean the most secure room in the government facility, a mysterious creature, referred to as “The Asset,” is brought to the facility and housed in that very room. The Asset was captured in the Amazon by Strickland (Michael Shannon), who proceeds to torture the monster every chance he gets after the monster bites off two of Strickland’s fingers upon arrival. Strickland wants The Asset dead and dissected. The Asset, which can breathe underwater and in open air, was brought for study as a possible way for the US to beat the Soviets in the space race. The scientist leading the study is Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who upon realizing the creature is sentient and wants to keep it alive.
Eliza, fascinated by the creature, begins to visit him on her lunch breaks, bringing him eggs and teaching him sign language to communicate with her. The two form a bond in which Eliza finally feels like someone doesn’t see her for her disability, her muteness, and only sees her as a person. She witnesses Strickland torture the creature, and realizing that Strickland wants to kill him, she devises a plan to break him out of the facility.
This movie brings in the elements of a monster movie; the fear of the monster, the great reveal, the detail in the monster’s appearance (check out a featurette on how they made the monster come to life below), and a bad guy who wants to kill the monster; with the hallmarks of a love story; the connection between an unlikely pair (Eliza and the mer-monster), the desperation to save a loved one, and the emotion of true love. This is one of the best love stories I’ve ever seen. The relationship between Eliza and the mer-monster is so well developed, and it’s portrayed beautiful (including a 50’s style black and white music number and an underwater sex scene).
Also, the cast in the movie is incredible. Sally Hawkins knocks it out of the park with Eliza. Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins bring complexity to an already complex film. Michael Shannon is peak Michael Shannon (I’m talking full anger yelling, but also bringing a threatening intensity to quieter scenes). Michael Stuhlbarg is fantastic to watch as he plays all sides of his character.
That said, some parts of this are not for the faint of heart, the movie is worth its R rating. The monster isn’t too scary, but Strickland’s bloody fingers on the floor, gunshot wounds to one character, and the torture of the mer-monster are rough if you don’t handle bloody, realistic looking injuries well. However, this movie is absolutely worth seeing. The visuals, much like del Toro’s other films, are stunning to behold and it’s hard to look away from the beautiful images. From the moment the movie started, I felt completely immersed in the story with these incredibly well-developed characters and the complete world built within the film.
I give ‘The Shape of Water’ a 9/10.
Alisha has been at Broadway Media and Mix 105.1 since 2011 in the promotions department. She loves pop punk, cats, soccer, movies, and producing concerts. You can follow her on Twitter: @_alisha_ann and Instagram: @thecoconutfellfarfromthetree