The Shape of Water (2017) Review: Free Willy 2.0
“A Fairy Tale for Troubled Times”
Synopsis: At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
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I generally enjoy Guillermo del Toro movies, and The Shape of Water is no exception. It contained all of the elements I’ve come to appreciate and expect from one of del Toro’s films: expressive use of color, lush set pieces, and deep characterization. Even before I left the theater after my first viewing, I had the sense that I’d be able to watch the movie at least a handful of times more and still discover nuances I missed.
Sally Hawkins was enchanting as Elisa, and though I enjoyed the relationships between all of the lead characters, I especially loved her interactions with Giles (Richard Jenkins). Their small kindnesses to each other were particularly touching. I also appreciated how much development all of the main characters got, though I was disappointed that got a glimpse into the normal home life of every lead character but Zelda (Octavia Spencer).
While I loved the characters and the overall beauty of The Shape of Water, I had some difficulty with the story. As interesting as I found the concept to be, I didn’t feel as though the romantic element was fully developed – and in a movie centering around the fallout from a romance, that’s a problem. I found it easy to buy that Elisa and the creature (Doug Jones) felt like kindred spirits, alone in their Otherness, but I just didn’t see the escalation from interest to romance played out appropriately on screen. As heart-wrenching as I found Elisa’s explanation to be (“he sees me for what I am”), that was really a moment that Told the audience the situation we should have properly been Shown.
The technical aspects of the movie were generally strong throughout, though I did at times find the creature more distracting than mesmerizing. There’s also some minor gore that leads to majorly unsettling moments, so if you’re squeamish, be forewarned.
All in all, I liked The Shape of Water, despite my feelings about the storyline. It doesn’t rank among my favorite Guillermo del Toro movies, but I’d definitely watch it again and recommend it to those who like some fantastical beauty with their horror.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: B
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