The Shape of Water

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor

Spoilers: Yes, you’re gonna wanna f*ck the fish guy.

We welcome love in many different shapes and forms. No matter who you are. You’ll find it, in any shape or form. The Shape of Water is that kind of movie. An expressive, powerful and elegant film with twists and turns, but can rival your regular old Hollywood blockbuster. You see love blossom and bloom, allowing you to witness its journey and figure out if they can be together. This movie was what I expected and a whole lot more. An imaginative and lyrical masterpiece from one of the best auteurs the film industry can ever have.

The Shape of Water focuses on the Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who works as a janitor in a government facility. Elisa along with her coworker Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) carry along the maintenance of the building, but they step into something that no one can explain or could have possibly thought of. The facility is housing a new asset, an amphibious humanoid creature (Doug Jones) brought from South America by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). He aims to test the creatures strength and figure out what it is. Elisa quickly becomes fascinated. She spends time in the enclosure with the creature, and they soon become close. When the government aims to destroy him, Elisa must do her best to save her new companion before time runs out.

I had the privilege of seeing The Shape of Water during it’s opening night in New York with Guillermo del Toro, Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer, and Michael Stuhlbarg in attendance afterward for a Q&A about the film. This film will go down as one of the highlighted movies in Guillermo del Toro’s long and everlasting career. It’s utterly stunning.

As the opening credits roll, you instantly know you’re going to be in for something breathtaking as you watch our leading lady as a Sleeping Beauty underwater. It’s the perfect opening for a film that never falters from how much visually it can do. Guillermo del Toro always does wonders with his storytelling, but this takes it to a whole new level. He conceived the idea from the thoughts he had while watching Creature from the Black Lagoon. Del Toro always thought that the two leads, the Gill-man and Kay Lawrence (Julie Adam), should have ended up together.

In The Shape of Water, he makes his dreams come true. It’s emotional and heartfelt. It carries a love letter to film, music, but more importantly, outsiders that want to find love. Or, outsiders who are just beginning to know what they’re capable of. It’s a fight against the system and unflinching when danger comes, but also protecting what you love the most. It also carries a message of loving differently no matter what.

The Shape of Water will touch everyone differently. It’s a film that you immediately gravitate towards and find yourself in one or some of the characters. There’s a line that I’ll mess up, but when Elisa is breaking down to Giles (Richard Jenkins), she says, “When he looks at me, he doesn’t know I am incomplete. He sees me.” Killed me, crushed me. I’m dead. I’m gone. As visually stunning as it is as a whole, the dialogue and the story very much shine brightly and keeps you glued to its foundation.

I can’t even begin to tell you how brilliant everyone was in this movie. Michael Shannon as the “take-no-shit” Colonel Richard Strickland makes you want to fight or f*ck him. You have to choose one. There’s no both. He brings a diabolical and despicable snarl to the character playing the typical 1960s nuclear husband with nothing else going for him but to strive for being a man above men. Michael Stuhlbarg gives a performance that’s both sinister, but warmhearted. Stuhlbarg plays a scientist with a heart of gold. He tries desperately to hold onto his identity but always wants to be a scientist first. Stuhlbarg gives a fantastic and commanding performance that leaves devastated.

Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, Elisa’s closeted neighbor, give the movie a tremendous amount of comedic relief from the emotional material. Whenever these two were on the screen, they delivered like no one’s business. Both are phenomenal with their timing and make their presence known when they step onto the screen.

Now, Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones. Holy f*ck. Doug Jones is the master of what he does. He can work magic with every single creature he plays, giving it his own twist. The creature in The Shape of Water is no different. He brings an innocent wonder that immediately draws you into the creature as Elisa does. You’re automatically fascinated with him because you’re just as curious about him and who he is, but also you’re very much taken with him because of his innocent yet regal charm. Also, yes, he has a cute butt, and you’re probably going to wanna f*ck him. I know I said it before, but I know you were waiting for it again.

Sally Hawkins is a star, but how she isn’t even more prominent is beyond me. In The Shape of Water, she 1,000% makes this role her own. I don’t think there could have been a better actress to play Elisa if you lined them up around the corner. Hawkins plays Elisa with sincerity and passion. She holds absolutely nothing back, especially since she’s mute, all of what she’s displayed on her face and with her movements.

One thing about Hawkins performance that immediately struck me was what she could do with her eyes. She tells an entire story, conveys emotions and gives you an idea with just the look. Elisa leaves you an emotional wreck because she only wants to do whats right. Hawkins brings that out of her, creating a knot in your stomach that you didn’t know you were holding because of what she does on screen. Also, another one with a really cute butt. A+ on these butts.

WATCH IT! The Shape of Water
is a stunning and major triumph for Guillermo del Toro. The writing by himself and Vanessa Taylor weaves a stunning beauty and the beast tale of love, companionship, difference, and acceptance. You’ll have this lovely tale in your mind as you walk from the theater and I promise you, you’ll want to see it again. 

Insha Fitzpatrick
co-editor in chief of dis/member & rogues portal. hufflepuff. frmly of talks on film runners. craves horror films. loves true crime. tries her best.

One thought on “The Shape of Water Review

  1. What a great intro to this film. I am fascinated by Del Toro’s fascination with outsider characters trying to find love or acceptance, so relatable in so many ways. There’s been nothing but amazing press, I am so excited!

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