The Shape of Water (2017)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon
Synopsis: 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.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language)
Release Date: December 22, 2017
As humans, we desperately search for it because not only does it give us satisfaction, but it also gives us a sense of worth and belonging that someone else cares about our very own existence--that we are even here on this earth in the first place. It is a universal desire and need that is constantly sought after until found.
Romantic love is usually found in the most unlikely of places. For mute janitor Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), that love is found in a really unlikely place--in the heart of an amphibious creature being held captive in a research facility. As the secret interactions between the two grow, it quickly becomes clear that the two need each other, and both lives are richer and stronger when together. And isn't that the essence of love?
In The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro presents a love story that, while hardly original, goes deeper than traditional tales. We've all seen this Beauty and the Beast element before, but this time its surrounded by some clever symbolism and metaphors that make this particular story a bit more refined than previous attempts. Specifically, characters are written to counter their actual physical forms. The "beast" or amphibious creature is more human than his human captors, especially Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who uses barbaric torture methods and acts as an unemotional, almost cyborg-like oppressor who enjoys dominance. This character trait goes as far as Strickland acting like an animal even when being intimate with his wife, demanding absolute silence while performing his act. On the other side, the creature, while physically an animal, displays human traits of emotion such as sympathy and love. It's a subtle but potent juxtaposition that is perfectly executed by del Toro.
Another well-crafted aesthetic in the film is the use of water as a motif and a metaphor for Love. The amphibious creature physically needs water to survive, while also needing emotional love to escape captivity. The ending of the film (which will be omitted in this review) caps off this metaphor in a very powerful, poignant way that leaves viewers pondering. Even the very title of the film, The Shape of Water, can be re-named The Shape of Love, as the film demonstrates that Love can take any form and come from any source--it has no shape.
In the technical department, Guillermo del Toro delivers an atmospheric film that certainly deserves its Oscar nominations for cinematography and production design, as he recreates 1960s Baltimore in a visceral way that really places the viewer in the setting of the film.
While not as original as it thinks it is, The Shape of Water still offers some deep insight into the nature of Love and its effects on the human spirit, and director Guillermo del Toro manages to provide a visceral, heartwarming story that will leave the viewer satisfied but still thinking while leaving the cinema.