Theatrical Review – The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

Director: Guillermo del Toro 
Screenplay: Vanessa Taylor and Guillermo del Toro
Minutes: 123
Year: 2017
Score: 8.73
Release: Theatrical

What an immensely pleasurable experience and with this viewing my top 25 has changed twice in as many days. Also, my favorite movie of 2017 has changed. The Shape of Water is why movies exist, why art exists, and is a living and breathing example of love.

From the press kit:

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER – an other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

I want to talk about the Amphibian Man in the room, the low score for editing. First, all scores start at five and go up and down from there, for The Shape of Water they mostly went up, many nearly bursting the mercury in the thermometer. However, there are two scenes that were just unpleasant, I am able to see how they help enhance their specific character, but I don’t think they are necessary for the story. There are also a few incidental continuity errors. The problem is that when everything is so wildly beautiful and nearly perfect the flaws are highlighted. Yes, it seems punitive, I see that, but it is not.

Now, with that out of the way, I am entranced by this film, this goes the same for most of Guillermo del Toro’s output but The Shape of Water stands a little bit taller than the rest. As if del Toro reached into my subconscious and instructed composer Alexandre Desplat to compose a score which transported me, mentally, to my youthful memories of Jean-Pierre Jeunet films and the music my mind would forever associate with French folktales. This certainly may differ for other viewers but the music sucked in from the opening moments and was not released until the lights came up in the theater. I am listening to the score as I am writing this and am getting emotional.

It doesn’t take del Toro long to show the audience that the film is not quite as innocent as the trailers may have suggested. Elisa quickly goes from being an endlessly charming woman to a normally, endlessly charming, sexual being. I have little doubt that some people may take issue with the scene I am referencing, and that is fine, but with one of the main characters a fish-man there is value is anchoring Elisa in reality.

Sally Hawkins, Elisa, deserves all of the best Actor awards. I can hardly imagine how difficult it is to carry a film with a character who is unable to speak. Her visual performance was captivating and enduring, something you would hope to get from anyone but Hawkins lures you in in ways that I cannot explain aside from urging you to witness, and try to resist, her magnetism. Most of the same could be applied to Doug Jones’s performance as Amphibian Man, but in a more complex way. Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Shannon round out the main cast and while they may not have given the performances of their lives no one detracted from the experience of the film.

If it is not already clear, I absolutely think that you should see this picture. What I said about edit is nit-picky, I know that. This movie is why I write here, sure my reach is minimal compared to marketing campaigns but works like this inspire me to want to continue spreading my love of the medium. And I haven’t even gotten to the effects, which is how much I want to impress this film on you, dear reader. I know that monster movies aren’t for everyone, and that love stories fall flat for some, also a mixture of the two would be discarded like of a bowl of Applejacks when you accidentally pour in orange juice, I get that, but sometimes it works. The Shape of Water is one of those time.

While del Toro, Hawkins, Desplat, Spencer, Shannon, and Jenkins all deserve every nomination they have received, I think that how little attention the visual effects team, and Doug Jones, have received is negligent. While my favorite effect was Elisa manipulating the rain drops there was nothing in the film that looked like an effect. None of the CGI was overstated or poorly rendered. While we have explosively colorful and imaginative films out there I suppose it is easy to overly an intimate, dark, and at times dingy, film which is flawless. And this is not considering how amazing the costume is, this is not Doug Jones wearing a unitard, riddled with dots, this is a man underneath layers of prosthetics which is then enhanced with visual effects, not wholly relent on a computer. Costumed effects are a trademark of del Toro, I know this, but it is difficult to accept when they is overshadowed.

I am very excited to see this movie again, and then to eventually add it to my rotation of home viewing. The Shape of Water is a special movie and I hope we will share that opinion.

Director: 10 – Cinematography: 10 – Edit: 3 – Parity: 9 – Main performance: 10 – Else performance: 6 – Score: 10 – Sound: 9 – Story: 8 – Script: 7 – Effects: 10 – Design: 10 – Costumes: 9 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10

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