Journalists

December 4, 2017

Movie Multiverse: The Shape of Water

Monsters and romance. Two great tastes that taste great together. Guillermo del Toro is known for his distinct visuals and love of monsters, his latest film, The Shape of Water, combines those two for a fairy tale romance set during the Cold War. Warning, this movie has a pet death in it so if that’s too upsetting for you, you may want to steer clear, if you can stomach that, then dive in.

The Shape of Water is a beauty and the beast story where the beast needs no transformation. Sally Hawkins is Elisa Esposito, a janitor in a government facility and lives her day to day pretty much the same way in a loop. She drifts through life in a dream-like state since there isn’t much to be awake for. She has her friends, Octavia Spencer as Zelda, her coworker who interprets for her and looks out for her when no one else will and neighbor Giles, played by Richard Jenkins, who watches old movies with her and eats meals while he gets lost in his artwork. Things change when Elisa’s work gets a new specimen, an amphibious humanoid from South America, played by Doug Jones. Unfortunately, along with this mysterious stranger arrives Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, the cruel agent who captured the creature and wants to get his job over with so he can leave this place. Meanwhile head scientist, Dr. Hoffstetler, played by Micahel Stuhlbarg, who wants to understand this creature while keeping his own motives secret. Elisa cleans the room the Creature is contained in and soon they begin to communicate with one another, without words, and Elisa awakens from her dreary dream to find herself in a fantastic reality.

This may be my pick for movie of the year. Del Toro has made a story that shows two people falling in love and it felt like the most believable romance I’ve seen occur on screen in a long time. Hawkins and Jones are so charming and cute with one another that I found myself smiling whenever we see them interact, you root for them to get to be together. While Jones may be dressed in amazing monster make up, it’s Shannon’s portrayal that shows us a monster we’re all too familiar with and he makes you dread what he’s going to do next incredibly well. Stuhlbarg plays a believable man of science who wants the creature to live and be studied without being cruel which makes him ill equipped for this Cold War mentality. Spencer’s Zelda often provides humor with her observations and interpretation for Elisa, along with Jenkins as Giles we realize that these two characters are effectively us, the audience, reacting to Elisa and the Creature’s budding connection.

The creature effects in this movie are amazing since it’s nearly all practical effects with just digital touch ups for minor things to bring the Creature to life. Interviews had the cast discuss how they were marveling at actually standing in the room with an amphibious humanoid and even finding the creature attractive in the ways del Toro had wanted people. You will believe a woman would fall for a sea creature, if you didn’t already. The effects are so good that it’s easy to squirm when things get graphic with gore in certain scenes, including the aforementioned pet death. The music also wonderfully frames the movie, while the leads don’t speak vocally, they find many other ways to interact and music is a key part of that. Alexandre Desplat provides the score assisted by opera singer, Renée Fleming, with many songs from the time also being used.

I imagine you have already made up your mind on whether you wanted to see this movie from the moment you heard the premise or saw the first trailer, well I’m here to say to follow that desire. Once again, if you find pet death to be too much, especially here where it is rather graphic, take warning. This is still a beautiful film with a lovely theme and it hasn’t left my mind since seeing it. There’s a scene in particular that weds the beautiful visuals with the wonderful music that I’ve wanted to see since I was a small child and felt a connection to del Toro, realizing he too had this scene in his head since he was a kid. I may go again when it’s available in a wider release.

Dr. Bustos
drbustos@comicattack.net

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