Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: "The Shape of Water" (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

A mute woman working on the custodial staff of a secret government facility falls in love with a fish-man that is imprisoned there. When she discovers he is in danger of being killed, she risks everything to help him escape.

There are a lot of romance movies out there, but there very few are told with the grace, beauty, and imagination seen in director Guillermo del Toro's latest film "The Shape of Water." It stars Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito, a mute woman who works as a cleaning lady at a secure government facility. One day, a curious looking creature, played by Doug Jones, is brought to the facility where it is imprisoned and regularly tortured by security officer Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon. Elisa befriends this creature, and over a short period of time, they bond with one another over music and eggs. She even begins to fall in love with it. When Elisa discovers this amphibian-man is to be dissected, she makes a plan to free it with the help of her best friend Giles, played by Richard Jenkins. She also gets some surprise help from her co-worker Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer, and a scientist named Dr. Hoffstetler, played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

"The Shape of Water" is the most gorgeous film of 2017. We don't mean this simply from a visual standpoint, but also in the way the story is written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. The art direction is fantastic, capturing almost an ethereal version of the 1960's with a color palette that ignites the senses and transports us to this world created by del Toro. The makeup work on Doug Jones is brilliant, and the creature design of the amphibian-man is nothing short of incredible. Jones gives an amazing performance as the amphibian-man, and though he looks like something straight out of a Universal monster movie, we quickly empathize with him and feel connected to him. Sally Hawkins gives her second award-worthy performance in less than a year as Elisa. She is able to convey so much emotion without even speaking. Through the use of expressions and body language, she tells stories and speaks of her isolation, her sadness, her longing, and her want and need to be accepted. Michael Shannon plays a sinister, alarmingly splendid villain. Seriously, he's scary good here. Michael Stuhlbarg never gives a bad performance and more people should know his name. His character has secrets to hide and is forced to choose between what he has been tasked to do and his undying love of science.

This story is juxtaposed against the backdrop of the Cold War and during the Civil Rights movement. People of color and people of different sexual orientations are treated as less than human by those around them in several instances. We see the treatment of the amphibian-man parallelled with the stories of characters like Giles and Zelda, and we come to comprehend him as more than just an animal or an asset. As these disenfranchised individuals come together in the name of love, we see those who have been marginalized rise up and become the heroes of the story, all while we explore our own ideas of what it truly means to be human.

We were drawn into this slightly twisted adult fairytale from the opening credits. We remained absolutely enthralled and utterly moved by each and every second of "The Shape of Water." It is enchanting, touching, and even horrific at times, yet it is all balanced into a perfectly lovely piece of cinema. Every moment of this film, from its intricate and odd score to its poignant fable, will delight all your senses. Guillermo del Toro has done an exquisite job directing this modern day fantasy romance and reminds us time and time again why he is our favorite director.


My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~94%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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