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The Shape of Water Movie Review

Jake Ditto, Staff Writer

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The Shape of Water is one of the most original films that I have ever see: a cold war love story between a mute woman and a mysterious sea creature. This is also one of the best films of the year.

Guillermo Del Toro is famous for his style. In his films like Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim and the Hellboy series, he has such extravagant creatures and settings that leave you in awe. Pan’s Labyrinth is one of my favorite foreign language films and I was hoping this film would be more of that, and not so much Pacific Rim. This film isn’t like either. It is the best film he has ever made, and strangely doesn’t have these creatures or settings that no one could think of, but instead makes a wonderful love story about acceptance and segregation that no one could ever think of. It isn’t different in its themes of acceptance and segregation, but in its originality. He also surprisingly doesn’t use a lot of special effects and CGI, which I really liked because I feel like that is one of the biggest problems with his other films. He gets great performances from the entire cast and will without a doubt get nominated for best directing in the Oscars.

This film is set during the cold war and about two outcasts who fall in love. One is Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a cleaning lady for a secret government facility who is mute and only has two friends, Giles (Richard Jenkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer). The other is a mysterious sea creature (Doug Jones) from the Amazon who is captured and tortured so that Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) can somehow use him against the Soviet Union.

Sally Hawkins gives one of the best performances by an actress this year. Every time she is around the sea creature, she is able to show so much love just with her facial expression. There is one scene that stands out to me when I think about her in this movie. She is sitting at the table and eating with the sea creature. She wants to say how much she loves him, but can’t. It then goes into a musical number, reminiscent of a classic musical where they are dancing and she’s is singing about how much she loves him. This scene not only stands out because it’s the only time we hear her talk, but stands out because she conveys so many emotions in one take.

Doug Jones plays the sea creature and is terrific here. He is one of the most underrated actors, partially because he plays a lot of the creatures Guillermo Del Toro’s films. He played the faun and the pale man in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in the Hellboy movies. While he is great in those movies, he gives his best performance in this one. There is a scene where Elisa is trying to take him to her house so he won’t be tortured anymore. Throughout this scene, he is beaten to a pulp and barely hangs onto life, while not being able to breathe for much longer because he is out of water. Just like Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones doesn’t talk throughout this film and his performance is only shown through his facial expressions and movements. He also acts very mythical and majestic because we are told that the South American people worshiped him as a god.

Michael Shannon is phenomenal in this movie. He is in charge of capturing and killing the sea creature. He was malicious and sadistic. He makes you hate him the more you see him. There is one scene where the sea creature is chained up and Shannon uses a cattle prod to continuously shock him just for the fun of it. He ultimately decides that it should be killed just because he finds out that there is nothing that this creature can be used for to fight the Soviets.

Richard Jenkins was the biggest surprise for me. For most of the movie he was the comic relief, and provides most of the humor for the entire film. That being said, he is still a character that is more than just funny, but also has his own struggles with being accepted. There is one scene where he goes to his favorite diner to eat pie. He goes in and has a great conversation with the chef, and then tries to hold his hand, showing that he wants to be romantic with the male chef. He instantly gets shut down and is asked to leave the diner. He may not be some mystical creature, or someone that is mute, but he is gay in a time where that is looked down upon.

Something else that was visually striking about this film was the use of makeup. Like I said previously, all of Guillermo Del Toro’s films have a strong emphasis on production and costume design, and while those elements stand out, the thing that stands out the most was the makeup. Early on in the film, Strickland loses two of his fingers and then they are both sewn back on and the further we get into the film, the more disgusting they become. At the end of the film, something happens with the fingers and it was so repulsive that I had to look away. The makeup sold that scene along with everything in the film involving those fingers.

The Shape of Water was an amazing experience and I do not have a single complaint. That being said, Guillermo Del Toro is an acquired taste so if you have never seen one of his films, I would enter with a very open mind.

 

Grade: A+

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