a THE SHAPE OF WATER musing
Set during the Cold War and drenched in a wonderfully colorful 50’s aesthetic, Guillermo del Toro’s latest weaves many themes and beautiful imagery into an incredible experience. THE SHAPE OF WATER is a very adult fairy tale, dealing with a mute woman, Elisa, falling in love with an experimental amphibian creature, the Asset. It’s super weird, but knows what it is and what it sets out to be, not stopping to over-explain or over-acknowledge its eccentricities. With only a few setbacks keeping this movie from being absolutely perfect, it’s entertaining and fascinatingly made. The opening scene of the flooded room is an extremely enchanting way to introduce the world you’re about to live in.
With a fantastic cast to boot, the movie never has trouble keeping me interested in its bonkers plot. We do understand why the mute Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins, easily earning an Oscar nomination here with one particularly standout marvellous sign language scene with Richard Jenkins) falls in love with the Asset (Doug Jones). Some hoops have to get jumped through story-wise (like why are the janitors allowed to enter an extremely confidential room so easily?), and del Toro doesn’t handle those transitions perfectly. But the overall plot, tone and pace are well managed.
Each scene fuels the main theme of everyone being driven by love, with Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones’ characters being the obvious one. Richard Jenkins never fails to impress, this time as Elisa’s closeted neighbor, with his suppressed homosexuality driving his character. The main antagonist in this movie, played by Michael Shannon in my favorite role out of his large filmography, is compelled to keep captive the Asset in his grasp by a love for the law and family.
Setting the story in the 1950’s not only gives the story a great period setting, but also a societal framing device. It’s much easier for the film to treat its audience intelligently with that background informing some of the situations. Prejudices were more prevalent back then, and when they’re brought up here, it’s a bit eerie how not much has changed in some ways.
When I walk into a movie with an odd premise such as this, I hope to be moved in a way I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, some dots don’t connect in the end (for example, I could have used a few more scenes of them falling in love in the lab) and it didn’t get me quite to that emotional height I always hope for in a movie. One super bizarre sequence almost got me there (you will definitely know when you see it…), but THE SHAPE OF WATER is still a great experience, a movie about love and letting it shape your life.
RATING: PURCHASING FOR MY COLLECTION
(Refer to my rating system HERE!)