The Shape of Water (2017)

shape of water poster 2017 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great cast and visuals


Movie Info

Movie Name:   The Shape of Water

Studio:   TSG Entertainment

Genre(s):   Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):   August 31, 2017 (Venice Film Festival)/December 1, 2017 (US)

MPAA Rating:   R

shape of water fish man sally hawkins doug jones

Damn…you are one fine looking fish stick

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning woman in a government lab at the peak of the Cold War.  As the space race picks up, the facility thinks it has found a secret weapon.  Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) has brought in a creature straight from the Amazon that was worshipped as a god by the people.  The fish man’s unique lungs could give the U.S. a step up against the Soviets in space travel…but the Soviets want the fish man as well.  As both sides debate what to do, Sally finds herself secretly bonding with the creature that she sees as a man, and with the help of her friends Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and Giles (Richard Jenkins), she’s got to free him before it is too late.

Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro (with additional writing credits for Vanessa Taylor), The Shape of Water is a sci-fi period romance-drama.  The film was lauded by critics upon its release and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design with nominations for Best Actress (Hawkins), Best Supporting Actress (Spencer), Best Supporting Actor (Jenkins), Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing.

The Shape of Water just looked great from trailers.  Like Guillermo’s Pan’s Labyrinth, it looked like Guillermo’s storytelling and vision matched up (something he sometimes struggles with).  With high expectations, The Shape of Water was going to be a tough sell…but it paid off.

shape of water michael shannon sally hawkins

I’m slimier than any fish man…why don’t you love me?

The film is a unique blend.  It features a narrator (in Richard Jenkins) which gives it a real fairytale-esque style to the Beauty and the Beast theme.  The movie really does feel like a blend between Guillermo’s Pan’s Labyrinth and the lightness of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s 2001 film Amelie (complete with Elisa’s patterned filled day, imagination, and her painter neighbor).  It is also similar to Pan’s Labyrinth in the sense that while it seemed to be a straight forward telling of events, it could have been a romanticized telling by Giles with the truth of the ending being too hard to take.  The fairytale ends on a positive note and happiness ensues for Elisa and the fish man…maybe.

The cast combines with the clever story.  Sally Hawkins continue to prove herself a fun and versatile actress as the mute woman who can be a wallflower but empowered at the same time.  Michael Shannon pretty much plays a version of his Boardwalk Empire character in the 1960s if he had been transported there.  Octavia Spencer is really good as the “friend” role which in its own way is too bad because she runs the risk of being type casts because she’s so good at it.  While Eliza is the focus of the story, there is something about Richard Jenkins’ view on the whole thing that almost has his outsider perspective as the heart of the film…he is watching something develop between Elisa and the fish man that he doesn’t judge because of his own situation.

shape of water sally hawkins octavia spencer

Why am I so good at playing the “best friend”…I’m going to typecast myself!

The last player in the cast is the fish man himself.  Doug Jones continues to prove his ability to morph into the creatures needed by directors and for some reason he seems to receive less attention than Andy Serkis who has taken a similar role in films.  His fish man highly resembles his previous performance as Abe Sapien in Guillermo’s adaptations of Hellboy, but with a bit more of a savage side since he is unable to communicate as the fish man.  The movie places his creature in a rich visual environment that amplifies the fairytale aspect.

Guillermo Del Toro has kind of taken over the reigns as fantasy director from Tim Burton.  While Tim Burton’s style and in films like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice really resemble Guillermo’s look and storytelling in this film, Guillermo has seemed to develop and evolve his work as he continues to create (something Burton has struggled with).  The Shape of Water feels like a real coming together of everything to tell a magical story with intense moments of drama and real romance…all while presenting it to adults who are “too old” for fairytales and making them feel young again.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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