A mute woman falls in love with an amphibious humanoid
and conspires to break him out of a secure government facility.
The Shape of Water (2017)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins,
Doug Jones, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Hewlett
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat)
Oscar Nominations - Best Actress (Sally Hawkins),
Best Supporting Actor (Richard Jenkins), Best Supporting
Actress (Octavia Spencer), Best Original Screenplay,
Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design,
Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing
The Shape of Water is unique, to say the least. Guillermo del Toro has a way with story and creature design that few other filmmakers can hold a candle to, and his work on this film is unparalleled. He created realism inside surrealism, a love story that nobody else would ever even imagine. But I don't know if that necessarily makes this film a masterpiece. While I did enjoy it for the most part, I do think that sometimes less is more. An implied, emotional love works just fine throughout, until the characters introduce a physical love into their already bizarre relationship. That's when things get weird and the audience gets taken out of del Toro's imaginative passion project.
Eliza is a lonely, mute woman who works as a janitor at a highly secure government facility that recently acquired an "asset" for study. Eliza discovers that the asset is an amphibious humanoid with personality, emotions, and intelligence, and the two bond out of their mutual need for a connection. It's beautiful, and the flawless performances of Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones really sell it. Coupled with Alexandre Desplat's subtle but meaningful score, and The Shape of Water is easily one of Guillermo del Toro's most visually breathtaking films. It's only once Eliza actually has sex with the Amphibian Man that things start to go in a strange direction. From there on, the film goes from quiet love story to almost a pulse-pounding thriller as Michael Shannon's villainous Mr. Strickland goes on a rampage to find the creature. Shannon always delivers a great performance, particularly when he plays a villain, and this time is no exception.
I didn't really know what to expect with The Shape of Water, and what I got was a stunning film about unusual love that I wouldn't say is del Toro's best film (I still love Hellboy), but I enjoyed it for the most part. It's a slow burn that turns the Cold War 1950's into a realm of fantasy, where anything is possible. I'm glad Guillermo del Toro is being recognized for his work, but I wish his approach to the film's love story had been a touch more subtle. That's my only issue. Everything else was great.