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February 26, 2018

The Shape of Water (2017) --- "Mute Girl Falls In Love With An Amphibian Man And Runs From a Guy Missing His Fingers."

Plot Summary
Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab's classified secret -- a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist. (1) 

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     Director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy; Pan’s Labyrinth) has always taken the road less traveled with his films and with his return to the genre of adult fairy tales The Shape of Water (2017) is no different. And it’s no wonder why this film has received so many award nominations/wins. Similar to his 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth, the film follows a female character’s struggle between two worlds; one of reality, which reveals itself to be the true evil while the one of myth offers an escape from such evil. The Shape of Water is a romantic and dark fantasy with a love story that is both beautiful and bizarre in a Del Toro kind of way. There are a few similarities to Creature from the Black Lagoon, mainly in terms of Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) but there are some differences with the story, setting, and cast.

     Now when you think about it, we have more love stories between creatures and humans than we realize. In Shrek, an ogre falls in love with a human, in Splash a man falls in love with a mermaid, while  Dracula, The Mummy, and even the Phantom of the Opera push the boundaries of love’s connection; or love’s lack of boundaries. The Shape of Water is, an albeit, bizarre love story. You feel for Eliza (Sally Hawkins), a literally silent character waiting for her moment to speak and it comes in the form of Amphibian Man who provides a lot of character in his discovery of the human world. It’s ironic that the one to communicate and understand this creature the most turns out to be a lonely mute.
     On the other hand, The Shape of Water is also a sexual story. I can understand why some people would be turned off by this, I for one was a bit shocked however the film makes it believable enough and forces us to see the inner beauty that is love.
The film is set in 1960’s Cold War era Baltimore, and yet if it were not for a few of the hairstyles, the cars, the outfits, and even some of the dialogue you can almost forget what time period it is. The cinematography is stunning, to say the least. The visuals incapsulate Del Toro’s vision and the aesthetic qualities are impressive once you realize that they were done using practical effects rather than a heavy reliance on CGI. The special effects make-up on the Amphibian Man was amazing and realistic. The music score by Alexandre Desplat's (The Kings Speech; Argo) was riveting despite its simplicity and almost low-key charm.
     The characters are made up of solid performances and well-developed characters. Sally Hawkins (Maudie) as the mute cleaning lady, Elisa, is beautiful. She bares her soul for all to see and as we struggle along silently we come to sympathize with her hardships and praise her victories. It takes an incredible actress to capture our attention without uttering a single word. You have to be able to convey everything you want to say through gestures and expressions. And Hawkins does so beautifully. Aside from Hawkins, her character’s two best friends act as perfect supporting roles. Richard Jenkins (Kong: Skull Island) plays her neighbor and gay artist Giles who is suffering from some form of a mid-life crisis. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) as her gabby mouth work partner, Zelda, almost steals the show in a few scenes with her humor and wit. This rag-tag trio of misfits could not be any more perfect for each other. The villain of the story is disturbingly and brilliantly played by Michael Shannon (Waco). Del Toro and Shannon almost cross the line between bad and nightmarishly psycho. But nevertheless, you can always count on Shannon to play the bad guy perfectly.
     Overall, The Shape of Water (2017) is a dark and romantic fantasy with a beautiful and bizarre love story that delivers a tale of beauty and hope during dark times. There is also a sexual aspect for this film that is not for young viewers or the faint of heart. But despite being a risqué in many respects, I admire Del Toro for having the guts to go all the way. The stunning cinematography and impressive practical effects manage to capture Del Toro’s vision, the performances were perfectly solid, and the music score is fitting in its simplicity. I can understand why this film has received numerous nominations and awards, as well as being considered one of the top ten movies of 2017 by the American Film Institute. I highly recommend this film to everyone ages 20+.

"When he looks at me, he does not know - how - I am incomplete. He sees me... as I am."
- Giles [interpreting Elisa] 

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  10 of 10 stars
Worth Buying:  10 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
Crimson Peak (2015)
Cronos (1993)
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Hellboy (2004)
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)
I, Tonya (2017)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Lady Bird (2017)
Lean On Pete (2017)
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Molly's Game (2017)
Pan's Labyrinth
Thelma (2017)
Wonderstruck (2017)
You Were Never Really Here (2017)

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