THE SHAPE OF WATER – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Gillian Del Toro is a teller of fairy tales along the lines of the Brothers Grimm instead of Mother Goose. They’re dark, moody stories that take on topics like tolerance, whom you love, and being an outsider facing great evil.
His new film The Shape Of Water is a continuance of his legacy of brilliant engaging work such as 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth. In both films, he uses a muted palette of surreal green and blue tones to color the screen and it always seems to be a little darker in the worlds he creates, even in the daylight.
In this new movie, he tells the story of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mousy woman rendered mute by an injury sustained to her throat as an infant. It’s America in the Cold War era, around 1960 something. She works the nightshift at Occam Aerospace Research Center in Baltimore with her best friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer). They’re lowly janitors that scuttle between the brilliant scientists working on classified projects. Elisa lives a life of solitude that consists of nothing but work and going back to her little apartment above a movie house alone, day after day. Occasionally, she breaks up the monotony by hanging out with her next-door neighbor and artist friend Giles (Richard Jenkins) who, because of his alcoholism, lost his job at a an advertising firm.
One day her life changes when the facility receives a new “asset” discovered by the sadistic Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) in the rivers of South America. Lisa has a brief encounter with the asset and discovers it is an amphibian humanoid creature (Doug Jones), she begins sneaking into the enclosure to spend time with him.
Without giving anything away the rest of the film deals with the romance that develops between Elisa and the amphibian man. I know it sounds weird but Del Toro makes it seem possible. There's also a scientist from the facility that gets involved. He’s named Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) who’s actually a Soviet spy name Dimitri. After he sees how the asset responds to Elisa and can communicate through sign language with her, he doesn't want to see it killed and dissected by Colonel Strickland. Both the US and Soviet governments see the amphibian man as just a key to advancing underwater technology and not as a living-thinking creature.
The Shape of Water is one of those films that give you a taste of what old Hollywood movies from the 1950s used to be like. Like the films of Busby Berkeley, it's a fantastical over-the-top charming story that’s beyond the norm and beautiful to look at. It’ll give you a place to hide out in a darkened theater, and get away from all the craziness of the outside world. It's pure escapism at it best and it's done brilliantly by this gifted director.
That's why I give this film a solid A rating and hope that you’ll find it at a theater near you. I know you’ll enjoy this captivating fable.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Selig Rating A
Running Time 2hr 3min
Drama / Fantasy
Limited Release Dec 8th AMC NorthPark 15, Cinemark West Plano, Magnolia 5
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.