the shape of water
DIRECTOR: guillermo del toro (Pan's labyrinth, pacific rim, hellboy)
STARRING: sally hawkins, doug jones, richard jenkins, and michael shannon
REVIEWER: lyall carter
At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
Elisa is a mute cleaner at a top secret government facility who goes through life completely unnoticed. One day she discovers an incredible, fantastical creature that she begins to form a deep relationship with. When that relationship is threatened Elisa must do everything within her power to save the creature from destruction.
The Shape of Water is a tale as old as time; it’s essentially Beauty and the Beast where the ‘beast’ is a giant merman. But it is so, so much more and is cinematic perfection in nearly every sense of the word.
Although the story appears to be simplistic there is so much depth under the surface. The relationship between Elisa and the creature is a pure one – even though things do get a bit physical. For some (like my wife) the whole fishman getting it on with a lady will be a bit of a stretch. But if you are completely immersed in the reality that this is a fantastical fable then it works – if not slightly unnecessary.
The story has one protagonist split between three characters: the mute, the closeted homosexual, and the African American cleaner. All three are completely powerless and unnoticed not only in their inner circles but in society at large. In one particular moment in the film Strickland who in any other film would have been the strong jawed handsome hero says, “What am I doing, interviewing the f***ing help? The s**t cleaners. The p** wipers.” This one line sums up one of the key themes in the film. The forgotten ones, the ‘losers’ should have a place in our society and are and can do wondrous things. In an age of troubling times this is the fairy tale we need.
The acting is absolutely first class in The Shape of Water. Even though Frances McDormand was great in Three Billboards Sally Hawkins gives a career defining performance as Elisa which is completely Oscar worthy. We see her loneliness, her brokenness and then the healing she receives through the relationship she develops with the creature – a truly beautiful performance. Richard Jenkins was robbed of an Oscar for his role as Giles. He is utterly brilliant as the closeted homosexual, desperate for love, frightened of the world, and almost broken by it.
The set dressing and design, the costuming, lighting, cinematography, and score (oh the score! When was the last time a human whistle was heard so beautifully in a film score?) are all world class helping you completely immerse yourself and bathe in the cinematic mastery that is The Shape of Water.
An engaging story, superb ensemble cast, and exquisite to look at The Shape of Water is a cinematic masterpiece of the finest order. More than a worthy winner of Best Picture and Director at the Oscars, The Shape of Water is one for the ages.
BEST OF THE BONUS FEATURES:
A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times
Take the plunge into the making of The Shape of Water. There are interviews with director Guillermo Del Toro as he explains his process from conception to shooting the film, in depth interviews with all of the actors, and an exploration of the creation of the merman from a simple idea to the finished product.
Guillermo Del Toro Master Class
This is a much watch for any budding film maker out there. Guillermo Del Toro and key members from the production team are on a panel which goes deep into the minute of the creation of The Shape of Water.