The Shape of Water (2017)
Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 3 Average: 4.7/5]
Directed By: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones
It is the adult version of the Disney’s classic Beauty and The Beast. Guillermo Del Toro’s whimsical yet masterful touch giving us a delightful experience. The Shape of Water is a fantasy drama which combines romance and horror like never before. The stars and their brilliant acting has essence has augmented the essence of the movie.
The movie is based in the cold war era, 1962. Elisa Esposito(Sally Hawkins) is a mute orphan who works as a janitor at a secret government facility in Baltimore USA. She is friends with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), a gay advertising illustrator who shares her enthusiasm for old musicals and Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), an African American coworker who doubles up as her interpreter. The facility corrals a specimen, captured by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) and a team of scientists led by Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) are appointed to study the same. Elisa stumbles upon the creature, is intrigued by it and befriends it by bringing it boiled eggs. Strickland on the orders of his superiors and also due to the contempt he himself has for the creature decides to vivisect it. Elisa upon discovering the fate of the amphibian enlists Giles and Zelda (initially unwittingly) and Dr Hoffstetler (there is a twist with regards to his character) and hatches an escape plan culminating in its release in open waters.
The Shape of Water is Guillermo Del Toro’s finest till date and as claimed by the director himself is inspired from the creature from the Black Lagoon. And of course everything starts with a boiled egg and as per the adage “the way to a mans heart is through his stomach” they fall in love. Love doesn’t need a language, Elisa and the creature can’t talk so she teaches it sign language. The moments of Elisa’s interactions with the creature are really good and there is a slow and steady improvement in the vocabulary. The shots and the setting everything is done with the theme of water and at every instance a water element has been used. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen (John Wick) has done a tremendous job giving us riveting visuals.
Sally Hawkins has given her best performance, she has a world of her own and she is perfectly happy in that world. The movie is carried by her innocence- she is adorable when she is with herself and her slightest of expressions in her moments of joy or pain bring are an acting masterclass. A special mention to Doug Jones who is savage but yet warm as an Amphibious Man. A long list of experience in prosthetics in various previous movies (Abe Sapien in Hellboy series, Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four) has helped in its cause. Octavia Spencer is really good as she has been in all her previous movies (The Help, Hidden Figures) and her relationship with Elisa is comradely. She is like an elder sister to Sally, taking care of her in the office, guiding her and more importantly being her voice. Michael Shannon is brutal as a vindictive government agent with a love for materialistic things and a greed for success . He is the actual beast, an evil monster having a great dislike for the creature.
The movie belongs to Guillermo Del Toro, it is his world into which we are brought, we swim around and never leave the experience. Del Toro is a master craftsman and probably the only storyteller who can combine horror and romance so beautifully. But the beauty is in the moments where all the emotions and feelings are conveyed not just by the actors but also by the situations, the sets, the lighting- everything contributes. You feel the emotions all around you like you feel water.
The only flaw in the shape of water is it tries to do a lot of things: like highlighting the political climate, showcasing the racism prevalent in 1960’s and also the aversion to LGBT people. It needs to be watched more than once, to feel the weight of the movie and every time it grows on you and every watch unearths more meanings.
The Shape of Water is not a fairy tale though it pays a homage to Disney’s Beauty and The Beast by having its heroine fall in love with an amphibious creature who eats cats. And its not for kids as there is horror, violence, racism and more importantly the princess of this movies pleasures herself daily as a routine! The main takeaway of the movie is that we have to look beyond the physical appearance, the creature though hideous looking was warm and reciprocated love but the real beast Strickland was in the human form. Watch it as the magic realism will simply blow your mind.