The Shape of Water really is one of those movies where I feel the trailer doesn’t really do it justice. From seeing the trailer, I wasn’t really sure how much I was going to enjoy the movie. Like I’m sure many others will be, I was persuaded that I might be wrong by the 13 Oscar nominations it recently received. I shouldn’t have had any doubts to be honest. Pan’s Labyrinth, also directed by Guillermo del Toro, is one of my favourite movies and The Shape of Water shares many similarities with that. A beautiful and enchanting mix of fairy tale, love story and monster movie.
Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a mute woman who works nights as a janitor for Occam Aerospace Research Center along with friend Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). At home she lives a simple life, watching musicals with her gay neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) and finding joy in the simple things in life. One day a strange creature is brought into the research center to be studied, surrounded by military and medical personnel. Colonel Richard Strickland has accompanied ‘the asset’ from it’s previous location, and appears to have developed a serious dislike to it. He carries an electrified cattle prod, which he takes great delight in using on the creature. In return though, the creature does manage to remove two of Stricklands fingers, and also inflicts serious injuries on others.
But Elisa takes pity on the creature and over time tries to befriend it, bringing him hard-boiled eggs and teaching him sign language. When she learns that plans for the creature involve vivisection, she hatches a plan to help him escape, and from that point their feelings for each other develop into love. A true Beauty and the Beast style fairy tale.
I found myself absolutely captivated, swept along by the story, and everything about it is just beautiful. Sally Hawkins is incredible, portraying such varied emotions without speaking, she provides much of the films humour, and shines in the more serious scenes too. Doug Jones does what he does best as the creature, but the real monster of the movie is Michael Shannon as Colonel Strickland. Terrifyingly brilliant.
For me, I’m not sure if this beats Pan’s Labyrinth, but The Shape of Water is certainly worthy of all the praise, and hopefully the awards, it receives.