Never before have I seen something so bizarre and weird be so enchanting and pleasant. The Shape of Water is an invitingly eloquent beauty and the beast love story that challenges the very idea of normality. I enjoyed this film a lot and I appreciate the profound storytelling and the sincere messages it conveys.
Director = Guillermo del Toro
Sally Hawkins = Elisa Esposito
Richard Jenkins = Giles
Michael Shannon = Richard Strickland
Doug Jones = Amphibian Man
Octavia Spencer = Zelda Fuller
A mute janitor in the 1960’s named Elisa, works the night shift at a secret government operations facility. During one of her shifts, she witnesses solders importing a water capsule that contains an aquatic creature (Amphibian Man). Elisa and her coworker/friend, Zelda have been tasked with cleaning the holding chambers of the creature while Richard Strickland and his team interrogate, torture, and extract information about the Amphibian Man. Elisa grows to care for the Amphibian Man and wants to break it free.
The following review will contain minor SPOILERS for The Shape of Water.
- Michael Shannon
As the arrogant and rude head of the secret government facility, Richard almost has it all. We get a glimpse of his home life and it is what every 1960’s man would want. Although he has a great wife, kids, house, powerful job, and nice car, it doesn’t seem enough for him. What has consumed Richard is the Amphibian Man and Elisa. The Amphibian Man bites off two of Richard’s fingers in an exchange, and he tries to sew them back on his hand. Throughout the film, his dead fingers deteriorate and discolor more and more while he tries to hold onto this image of being a “complete man”.
Towards the end, Richard is confronting Zelda in the hopes that she will tell him where Elisa has taken the Amphibian Man. Earlier in the film, Richard spoke to Zelda and Elisa about the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah. The comparison Richard makes in this scene to Zelda is that he is Samson who has been betrayed by a woman and is no longer strong and whole. As he rips off the puss filled dead fingers on his hand, his cold and intimidating performance is what made me appreciate Michael Shannon for this role.
2. Richard Jenkins
While I was at the Telluride Film Festival this year, Richard Jenkins and I walked past each other on the sidewalk and it haunts me to this day that I didn’t say something to him. I would have told him that I think he is incredibly talented and a one of a kind actor.
He plays Giles, Elisa’s neighbor, who is a kind and loving man. Throughout the film he has his eyes on this baker down the street and he has been working up the courage to go and say hi. The problem is that the baker is a man and it’s the 1960’s, so being an openly gay man will make you an instant outcast.
The scene that made me love Richard Jenkins’ performance, was when he finally works up the courage to go and tell the baker how he feels and he gets harshly shut down. An African-American couple walks into the bakery at the same time and the baker kicks them out before kicking Giles out as well. Giles scrubs his mouth from the pie and stands up for the African-American couple before exiting the bakery with a new found perspective of the man he once admired. The way Richard Jenkins handled the mood and shift of the scene made me hope that he gets recognized by the Academy for his performance.
3. Attention to detail
With turquoise symbolizing hope and desire, you can notice the key items that are colored for that purpose. The pie at the bakery Giles goes to, the Cadillac Richard drives, the bathroom wall of Elisa’s apartment, and the Amphibian Man himself are all colored in turquoise. All of which reflect the character’s ambitions and motivations throughout the film.
Looking further we also see that every protagonist in this film is “flawed” by our societies standards. Elisa is mute, Zelda is African-American, Giles is homosexual, and the Amphibian Man is well…an amphibian man. I appreciated the unorthodox storytelling and subtle, but purposeful narrative.
- Explicit Content
This film was shockingly explicit and it didn’t need to be. Elisa is nude in a couple scenes and there is a sex scene that is implied with the Amphibian Man. In addition, Elisa explains to Zedla how the Amphibian Man and her had sex and it was very unnecessary and inappropriate. This was my only problem with the film.
I really enjoyed this film and I’m certain it will receive recognition from the Academy in some form or the other. If you are a film lover and/or you admire Guillermo del Toro’s work, then check it out. Viewer discretion is heavily advised.