I don’t have enough words to describe how great this movie is. In the simplest of terms, The Shape of Water is marvelous, just marvelous. It’s my favorite picture of 2017.
Everything about director Guillermo del Toro’s (Pan's Labyrinth) newest creation is exulted to the highest form of perfection. From the writing, to the direction, to the acting; it’s all wonderfully formed with a stroke of tribute to Old Hollywood. Del Toro is a visionary director, who continues to improve on each film he makes. The Shape of Water is one of his finest films to-date. Racking up the awards this season and there’s a good reason why, The Shape of Water has won 41 awards including 2 Golden Globes and 3 Critics’ Choice awards. The film has also been nominated for an astounding 13 Oscars. Plus, the American Film Institute (AFI) selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year.
The Shape of Water is a marvelous movie that will transcend us through a time of both reality and fantasy. This adult fairy tale tells the vivid story of a lonely women, Elisa (a stellar Sally Hawkins), who is mute and is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa works with her friend, Zelda (a magnificent Octavia Spencer), at a hidden high-security government laboratory in Baltimore during the Cold War in the early 1960s. Elisa and Zelda are both janitors scrubbing the facility day in and day out. But, Elisa’s life is about to change when she discovers a secret classified experiment. The ‘Asset’ was captured from a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland (a wicked Michael Shannon). Strickland is a Bible-thumping sociopath who treats women like dirt and fantasizes about dictatorial leadership in a white man’s world.
The film starts to deepen when Elisa forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature (the outstanding Doug Jones) that is being held in captivity. Her bond is beautifully captured in this modern-day tale of Beauty and the Beast. Del Toro transcends this story into pure forms of love. His attitude for monster movies and Old Hollywood is a feast for your eyes. It’s dazzling and unforgettably romantic, The Shape of Water will engulf you with awe and by the end, sweep you away. Emotions running rapidly throughout Hawkins' nonverbal performance is profoundly absorbing, as we walk alongside her and her notion for love. Also, in the spotlight are actors Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg. Jenkins plays a closeted gay artist living next-door to Elisa; while Stuhlbarg plays Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, a laboratory scientist whose other identity I won’t give away.
Del Toro also pays tribute to The Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon, who inspired the creation of his Amphibian Man. From the gorgeous music, to the green tinted lighting – production design, The Shape of Water hits all of the highlights from this Cold War era. There’s even homage to old movie theaters, as Elisa lives above one in her little apartment. We see several films being played in the background like The Story of Ruth (1960) and Mardi Gras (1958). I could go on and on about this movie because it got so much right in this fairy tale story. Del Toro’s vivid creation receives all five stars from me and is my favorite picture from 2017. The Shape of Water will open your heart and fill it with wondrous imagination. I’ll be rooting for it to win Best Picture this March. The Shape of Water is bold, beautiful and self-absorbing. What a marvel it is to have del Toro back in the movies again.
"This movie is a healing movie for me. ... For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we're going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven." –Guillermo del Toro
The Shape of Water is rated R (Restricted). For sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.