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The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water: A Weirdly Magical Fairy Tale

  • Michael ShannonOctavia Spencer...
  • Action & AdventureDrama...
  • Guillermo del Toro
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Cairo 360
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The Shape of Water: A Weirdly Magical Fairy Tale

Picture Beauty & the Beast without the unrealistically perfect princess, the beast’s wild anger, and the whole Stockholm syndrome situation. The Shape of Water presents a premise that is as ridiculous as it is surprisingly magnificent.

The Romantic Science Fiction film begins with a “once upon a time” like narration, setting the mood for the fairy tale to come. The film then proceeds to tell the story of Elisa (Sally Hawkins): a mute working as a cleaning staff member at the Occam Aerospace Research Facility. Elisa does not only feel unfulfilled, with her mundane and dull life, she is also quite lonely, with her only two friends being her artist neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins), and her blunt coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Elisa’s life is changed when the research center acquires an amphibious, and somewhat human-like creature (Doug Jones).

Elisa cleans the lab where the creature is kept, deeply connects with it, and gradually starts to fall in love with it. With sadistic government agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) being in charge of the creature, it is tortured, violently studied, and eventually sentenced to death so that scientists can perform an autopsy on it. Elisa is determined to save the creature, but can she let go of her love and release it into the sea?

This all seems ridiculous right?

It is, but the film makes it works; in fact, the film excels at making it work! 

Sally Hawkins courageously took on this once in a lifetime role, and she nailed it. Her performance as Elisa was silently expressive; from her tell-tale eyes, to the way she carried herself, to her overall body language, Hawkins was Elisa. Moreover, Hawkins was able to sweep audiences through Elisa’s love affair with the creature; subtly and methodically, Hawkins not only managed to make audiences okay with the affair, she managed to make audiences actively root for its happy ending. As such, Hawkins was successfully and effortlessly able to portray the extent to which Elisa cared for the creature, and how deep rooted her connection to it was.

Additionally, the intricate and brilliant design of the creature’s face and body helped transform the unreal into reality, all while avoiding the pitfalls of seeming completely implausible, cartoonish, and/or comical. Even though the creature possessed dead eyes, his facial expressions compensated for his lack of communication skills, all thanks to Doug Jones.

Michael Shannon also out did himself. The film’s early narration describes the film as “a tale of love and loss, with a monster who tried to destroy it all,” and that is exactly what Shannon portrayed Strickland to be: a monster. Despite Shannon’s very limited lines, he was still able to excel at conveying the depth of his character, creating a villain that was genuinely despicable.  His ominously controlling body language, his devilish gazes, and his agitated demeanor, made audiences forget about Jones’ physical monstrosity, and focus on Shannon’s psychological monstrosity.

The film’s other pieces cohesively fit together; from the mesmerizingly peculiar music score, to the blue-green color and light designs, to the on-screen portrayal of the 1960’s era, and finally to the outstanding underwater camera shots, all of the feature’s pieces helped produce a masterful whole.

All in all, the film’s director Guillermo Del Toro creates a bizarrely genius feature, one that redefines typical silver screen love stories, by means of blending the Romance genre with the Science Fiction genre. How good does a film have to be to have audiences hoping that the heroine ends up with an amphibious creature? The answer: it has to be excellent. While The Shape of Water may seem freakish to the bystander, watch it and its wonder will linger with you for days. 

Like This? Try

Beauty and the Beast (2017), Maleficent (2014), Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Mirror Mirror (2012). 

360 Tip

The last name of the main character Elisa Esposito is of Italian origin: it is a name given to children who were abandoned and/or exposed.

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