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The Shape of Water-Review

The Shape of Water
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Octavia Specer, and Michael Shannon

Guillermo Del Toro has proven that he is a master of the weird and strange. MimicPans Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and now The Shape of Water.  Del Toro’s latest effort fits perfectly into his steam punk-horror style that movie audiences have really come to love.
The Shape of Water is a visual masterpiece. The Cinematography, lighting, and composition was perfect. The set design was rich and decadent. The muted colors of the laboratory compared to the vibrant world that the main character saw outside set a visual tone for the entire film.
The creature design for the Merman struck me as curious. Doug Jones is the actor behind the creatures performance and has worked with Guillermo Del Toro for over 20 years! The Merman resembles another character Abe Sapian from Hellboy. Even though Jones, who also played Abe, says that it’s in “no way related”, it was still kind of distracting. The two characters are similar in behavior and look. I kept wondering if there was some sort of connection to them. Abe’s origin in Hellboy was left as “Unknown”. I was looking for clues to a link while watching the movie which probably took my attention away from what was happening on screen.
The main character Elisa Esposito, is a deaf woman. Sally Hawkins delivers a fantastic Oscar worthy performance, her hand-signing seemed natural and fluent. Her facial expressions conveyed her emotions and intentions perfectly. She had so many endearing moments on screen, she did a fantastic job! Hawkins and Del Toro made some bold on camera decisions by showing Elisa’s sexuality and physical desire for affection. Hawkins went completely nude for significant periods of time on camera, which again, showed courage and confidence on her part.
There was one moment in the film where I did feel awkward and that’s when Elisa used her voice. I wasn’t sure what to think. The moment I’m referring to came during a day-dream sequence. Elisa was singing and dancing with the Merman. It was a cute black and white moment and a visual throwback to the silver screen days of motion picture cinema. However, when Sally Hawkins started singing I couldn’t help but feel that people might find it offensive. The song was about being incomplete but then complete because they had found love in each other. Elisa had told her neighbor that she had felt incomplete because she cannot speak. When she meets the Merman she fills unusually connected to him. Neither of them being able to verbally communicate, Elisa begins to teach the Merman sign language and, over time, they connect on an emotional level.
There were some questions with the main characters origin stories. Elisa had three equal length slices on both sides of her neck. Her backstory was that she was an infant found on the side of the river bed. She had those slashes on her neck and was unable to speak. Spoiler alert: at the end of the movie, as you can see in the poster, it ends with the two lovers joining together in the ocean and him opening the slits on her neck allowing her to breathe under water. Is this is a bigger story of two lost loves? As a Geek I couldn’t help but try and fill in the blanks.
A Very odd and interesting moment in the movie and a place that monster movies really haven’t gone before that wasn’t hentai, was when the Merman and Elisa actually have sex. No “acts” were shown. After the deed, Elisa is “talking” to her bestie Zelda, Ocatavia Spencer. Elisa physically describes his “functionality”. Again, I spent a few moments focusing on that weird mess then watching the movie. Octavia Spencer’s character was a sweet no non-sense lady who brought a lot of humor to the tense situations brought on by a bad guy agent Richard Strickland, played by the intimidating Michael Shannon. Shannon does a great job, as always, in being that awkward mean bastard that we love to hate.
Aside from the curious dance moment and the graphic explanation of how a crab would mate with a human I think that The Shape of Water is a beautiful contribution to cinema. Guillermo Del Toro continues to be one of the best directors of our time. He’s a true visionary and creator of unique and fantastic stories. A rare treasure to film!