A woman falls in love with a fish. Yes, that is the main idea of this film. On paper, it sounds dumb and should be garbage. Everyone is saying how it is so beautiful, one of the best romantic stories in years, and that it deserves to win Oscars. Is anything of this true? Absolutely!
I have had a lot of respect for Guillermo Del Toro but never seen much of his movies. The only film I have seen from him was Pacific Rim, which I hated. So my experience in his films is low, but from what I have seen in clips and screenshots from his other movies, he always has a great style that makes for some pretty film. I did not like Pacific Rim, but I loved it visually. He nails it again with The Shape of Water. From the characters, story, cinematography, makeup, wardrobe, and everything else in this movie are beautiful.
The Shape of Water takes place in the 1960s following a young mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) who works at a research facility. She continues her duties cleaning up the building and keeping company with her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). One day a mysterious aquatic creature (Doug Jones) is brought into the facility. Elisa sees the creature to look human with the shape of his body, but to look like a fish. The amphibious man is being tortured. He forms a bond with Elisa who develops a plan to help the amphibious man escape. She teams up with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) to support the creature. Her relationship with the amphibious man grows as they start to fall in love.
Most of the time in the story is spent developing characters and relationships. All of the characters are interesting and brought to life wonderfully by the actors and actresses. The way Elisa develops her relationship and later explains how she feels about the amphibious man is well developed and unusually beautiful. She manages to be enthusiastic, charming, funny, dramatic, and so much more without uttering a single word. Sally Hawkins does a phenomenal job and is Oscar worthy. Her supporting friends Zelda and Giles are fantastic, with Giles being my favorite of the two. His quirky and supportive personality is enjoyable. The bond between Elisa and her friends feels genuine and lifelike. Zelda is a true friend. She is supportive of Elisa throughout. Since Elisa is such a great listener, Zelda often talks about her home life and whatever is on her mind throughout the day. Her character’s attitude and dynamic with Elisa makes her an enjoyable, supportive role in the movie. The main threat and real monster of the story are Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) the director of this whole operation for the “asset” and tries to keep control of the situation. His weird characteristics and intimidating demeanor will steal every scene that he is in. He is a relentless force that is hovering over people’s shoulders. This true monster is shown to be a white, Christian, conservative, man. The stereotypical type of character for the era, but with some quirky behavior that makes him unique. Especially with the excellent performance by Michael Shannon. We have all seen this type of character being the antagonist in so many movies. The writing and performance make him different from all those other characters we have seen before. Any story needs a good protagonist like Elisa, but you always need that great antagonist that we get here.
It is more than just the romantic story and fantastic characters that make this movie beautiful, it is the cinematography and editing. Everything is perfectly done and with some unique moments. The opening shots are beautiful. The tone is set right from the beginning with the mix of the music and the camera shots around Elisa’s apartment building. The whole movie is filled with such fantastic camera shots that set the mood for the scenes or can just make the audience enjoy the scenery that is set with the 1960s look.
Most of the effects are practical which makes everything look real as can be and absolutely beautiful. Guillermo is known for loving his practical effects which shine most with the aquatic creature. The costume is almost entirely practical with some CGI mixed in for final touches to make the creature come to life. You could practically reach out and touch him. Along with Doug Jones who’s performance was the last piece to bring the creature to life as he interacts with other characters and the world around him.
The Shape of Water is a cinematic masterpiece. Blending genres from romance, some comedy, horror, drama, and thriller all into the mix to make a truly unique movie. The cast is perfect who were able to take such great characters and bring them all to life. Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor came together to write one of the most compelling stories from something that could have easily been the biggest trash of the year. No matter how you feel by the end of this review, you should check it out for yourself.
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Image via Fox Searchlight