"The Shape of Water"
Release Date: Dec. 8, 2017
Running Time: 123 minutes
In the early 2000s, Guillermo del Toro failed in his bid to remake The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the classic Universal monster movie from 1954. Undeterred, del Toro now offers his own take on The Creature from the Black Lagoon with The Shape of Water, a beguiling romance that depicts its so-called “Fish Man” (Doug Jones) as an unquestionable figure of sympathy. To the US Military fighting the Cold War in the early 1960s, though, Fish Man is an aberration of nature and an affront to humanity with God-like powers that they fear could be weaponized if he is captured by the Soviets. During a mission led by the merciless patriot Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), the Fish Man is captured in South America and transported to a research facility in Baltimore. It is there that the Fish Man meets and falls in love with a cleaner, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins). Elisa feels like an outsider in her own world as a result of a childhood injury that left her mute. So she communicates with her soulmate by teaching him sign language. By the time Elisa springs the Fish Man from his prison cell, they are engaging in some of the most audacious but undeniably tender love scenes we have ever seen on screen. This is an exquisite Beauty and the Beast tale that allows its soulmates time to discover each other before embarking on a journey that would not just change their lives but the lives of those who support and oppose them. A master of delivering performances that often physical in nature, Jones finds the humanity in a creature that is both feared and worshipped and exudes an unparalleled curiosity for members of a hostile species that bother to treat him with respect and civility. Hawkins delivers the best performance of her career through the use of nonverbal communication. She imbues in Elisa pure undiluted kindness and compassion that serve as the perfect counterbalance to the suspicious and hatred that drives Shannon’s unstable military man. Elisa is everything humanity aspires to be; Stickland is everything humanity sadly is. Hawkins is aided and abetted by Richard Jenkins, who is at his most vulnerable and engaging as her caring neighbor, and Octavia Spencer, a joy to watch as Elisa’s support system and the film’s comic relief. While The Shape of Water doesn’t skimp on the violence, del Toro relies on his
nostalgia for the cinema of yesteryear to create a mood of enchantment that sets the table romance. One intimate moment of fantasy involving Elisa and the Fish Man, which cannot be spoiled here, proves beyond of a doubt that del Toro is a filmmaker who would just have been just as comfortable making films in the 1930s as he is today. A wonderfully weird and sublime fable for the ages, The Shape of Water offers hope for love at a very dark time.
Aired: Dec. 7, 2017