"The Shape of Water" (2017)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Co-written by Vanessa Taylor
Starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon

‘A Breathtaking Achievement’

So far, 2017 has proven to be a lackluster year for movies. It has offered disappointing superhero movies, unnecessary sequels and an overload of remakes. With the exception of a few out-of-the-ordinary films, nothing has really stood out. What’s been missing is a sense of originality. Movie-goers that simply want to be entertained have left the theater satisfied. However, those seeking fresh or original entertainment have been left disappointed.

In a year that has proven to be disappointing for movies, Guillermo Del Toro’s latest film “The Shape of Water” is like a breath of fresh air. A visually dazzling love story between a mute woman and aquatic creature, it is simply unlike any film you will see this year. Writer/director Guillermo Del Toro has crafted a breathtaking film that features stunning performances, gorgeous visuals and a gripping story. Although it may not appeal to everyone due to its strange concept, “The Shape of Water” is a must-see. It is hard to not be swept away by this strange, yet mesmerizing romantic fantasy.

Set during the 1960’s, “The Shape of Water” focuses on the life of a mute cleaning lady named Elisa who works in a research facility. Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, lives an isolated and mundane life until she stumbles across a mysterious aquatic creature. The two pair of outsiders immediately fall in love. However, their relationship is put in danger when the hostile government plans to kill the creature.

At a first glance, it seems like a rather strange concept for a movie that won’t work. How are we supposed to believe that a mute woman would fall in love with a fish monster? On paper, it sounds like something that shouldn’t work. However, writer/director Guillermo Del Toro has pulled it off. Known for his distinct visual style, Del Toro has made visually gorgeous films throughout his career. I’ve always found his films to be visually appealing, but lacking emotions and a strong story. With “The Shape of Water”, Del Toro has crafted a film that is not only visually captivating but also driven by an emotionally resonant story.

As we’ve come to expect from the filmmaker, the most impressive aspect of “The Shape of Water” are the visuals. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film this visually stunning on the big-screen. Although there have been plenty of blockbusters this year, none have matched the visual scope or scale of this film. Del Toro has crafted an immersive film that draws the viewer in through visuals. From the old-fashioned sets to the underwater love sequence, the film offers haunting images that stick with you long after you leave the theater. Guillermo Del Toro has proven time and again that he knows how to make visually appealing films, and “The Shape of Water” is no exception.

These gorgeous visuals are matched by an emotionally involving story. Although this may seem absurd, you come to care for the relationship between the mute woman and aquatic creature. This relationship is surprisingly believable due to the well-rounded characters. The characters are larger-than-life, quirky and given proper backstories. It is rare to see a film pay this much attention to character development. Each character is given time to develop and shine. This makes the love story at the heart of “The Shape of Water” all the more believable and engrossing.

In terms of acting, it is hard to not marvel at the brilliant performances from the cast. Guillermo Del Toro has assembled the year’s most award-worthy lineup of actors. Every actor is given the opportunity to shine and leave a lasting impression.

Sally Hawkins is unforgettable in the role of a mute woman that falls in love with an amphibian creature. Its not easy to communicate emotions without dialogue, but the actress pulls it off with ease. Although she barely speaks throughout the film, her expressions provide much more emotion than you would expect. With expressive eyes and meaningful body language, Hawkins communicates her character’s feelings without saying a single word. Its a remarkable performance that is worthy of awards and recognition. After many years of being overlooked as an actress, Sally Hawkins deserves everyone’s attention.

The supporting cast is terrific and also worthy of recognition. As Elisa’s co-worker, Octavia Spencer is as usual a joy to watch and brings hilarious comical relief to the film. Michael Shannon is terrifying and sends shivers down your spine as the villain. And finally, the film would not work if it weren’t for Doug Jones’ impressive physical performance as the creature.

Another praise-worthy aspect of “The Shape of Water” is Alexandre Desplat’s score. It is not often that the musical score is something you remember after watching a film. However, Alexandre Desplat’s score is hard to forget. Whimsical, joyous and upbeat, it enhances the film to another level. Not only does the music build tension and suspense, but it keeps the viewer invested in the story.

If I have one minor gripe with “The Shape of Water”, it is that the film is a little long. Although it is captivating from start to finish, Guillermo Del Toro’s film suffers from an overlong running time. At a little over two hours, the film is longer than necessary and drags towards the end. There are a few scenes that feel unnecessary and don’t add anything to the story. That being said, this is only a minor issue and detracts slightly from the viewing experience.

In the end, “The Shape of Water” is a strange yet mesmerizing film that will not appeal to everyone.  Nevertheless, fans of Guillermo Del Toro’s films will definitely enjoy it and so will movie-goers seeking fresh and original entertainment. At a time when Hollywood seems to be running out of ideas, it is reassuring to be reminded that movies like “The Shape of Water” are still getting made.

4.5/5 stars

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