Review: The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is his latest creature feature. This fairytale takes place in the 1960’s involves a mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) that resembles The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Elisa works as a night shift janitor at Occam Aerospace Research Center. Her facility receives a new “asset” that’s accompanied by a hard nosed government agent named Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). The “asset” they have kept in a tank is the Amphibian Man. A curious Elisa secretly spends  her lunches with him and learns he communicates, understand music, and show a wide range of emotions.

Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), a scientist in the lab, has his own ideas about what to do with  Amphibian Man.

When Elisa learns Strickland is determined to dissect Amphibian Man, she devises a plan to break him out of the secure facility.

Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, and Michael Shannon are undoubtedly the stars of the movie. Hawkins delivers one of the best performances of the year, a performance that requires zero dialogue but a lot of communicating with her eyes and posture. She says a lot without saying anything at all.

Michael Shannon does what Michael Shannon does in these villainous roles. He’s physically intimidating, frightening, and prowls around his scenes like a pit bull off its leash. There aren’t many actors who can play a destructive force of nature the way Shannon does. It’s hard to take your eyes off him, despite him being terrifying.

Although Doug Jones has a face that’s rarely seen, his work is well known. He’s famously known as Abe Sapien in Hellboy or the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth. If del Torro needs a creature, Doug Jones is his first call. Jones’ doesn’t disappoint in The Shape of Water. Much like Hawkins’ performance, Jones is able to do a lot with just his eyes and body movements. Jones continues to be everyone’s favorite movie monster.

The three main stars are flanked by Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins – actors that are great at their craft and two of the most valuable supporting actors in Hollywood.

Along with the incredible performances, The Shape of Water is entertaining story about two people that can’t communicate with each other, yet end up forming a really close bond. Elisa and the Amphibian Man maneuver through a world that dismisses them and treats them like monsters. It doesn’t take long for Elisa to realize she has more in common with the creature than she thinks.

The story embraces the fairytale fantasy about a merman and a woman – it goes full fairtayle during the final act. From the over-the-top bad guy to the foreign influences, the film is alot more fantasy story than sci-fi.

There’s a great sequence when Elisa is trying her hardest to explain to Giles (Richard Jenkins) why she feels the way she feels about Amphibian Man, and he doesn’t get it. It’s not until Giles has his own experience that he finally understands what she means – that’s what makes this story so beautiful.

The Shape of Water is more sci-fi fantasy love story that rom-com. It’s a celebration of love and valuing people perceived as “different” cloaked in this tale about a mute woman who falls for a merman being detained at her job. Guillermo del Toro does a great job slipping social commentary into an interspecies love story.

Grade: A