The Shape of Water (2017)
By Livia Peterson
The director Guillermo del Toro understands how to allow the audience to connect to non human characters. In del Toro’s latest film “The Shape of Water”, the humanoid amphibian dubbed “the asset”, meticulously voiced by Doug Jones is easy to fall in love with and indeed, one may crave to kiss and marry him if it was possible. It is human nature that the women and men possess crushes, initial friendship is established, and finally a romantic bond is formed.
The narrative is extremely simple and yet, intricate and transcendent: the mute janitor Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) befriends, flirts, and manifests the romantic relationship with the humanoid amphibian, also known as, “the asset” (Jones) at a research facility during the 1960s. While General Hoyt (Nick Searcy) and Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) arrange to euthanize the asset, Ms. Esposito, fellow janitor Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), and the artist and neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) organize to allow the asset to escape out of the facility. Ms. Esposito and Giles are the caregivers to the asset for awhile.
“The Shape of Water” is easily superior to “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006). On the one hand, Zelda and Giles provides context to the love story. On the other hand, General Hoyt and Mr. Strickland are the predictable villains. While Ms. Spencer is the conversational character and supplies the underwhelming performance in return, Ms. Hawkins delivers one of the most refreshing performances in recent memory. The “Repeat What I Sign” sequence and the final frame are evocative and unrestrained. If one must select between Hawkins’ characters in “Maudie” and “The Shape of Water”, one would likely select the latter. Ms. Esposito is accessible in the most peculiar way and yet, it is difficult not to root for the character. The asset may be dangerous, but he’s also loving and caring. Be prepare to witness an outlandish sex scene in the film (if you’ve seen del Toro’s previous films, it is not a surprise at all).
Despite all the oddness, “The Shape of Water” will move and tear you apart. del Toro impeccably examines what it is to be human and why we fall in love, even with the strangest creatures. “The Shape of Water” is an elegant example of bold and daring filmmaking and del Toro is not afraid to allow the audience to step out of their comfort zones. Even after several hours following the screening, my heart is still shattered. A+
For Your Consideration: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in Supporting Role (Sally Hawkins), Best Actor in Supporting Role (Doug Jones), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Original Screenplay