“The Shape of Water”
Release Date: December 1, 2017
MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language)
“The Shape of Water” is a very strange film. The subject matter is strange, as are the characters, setting, and plot. Therein lies its uniqueness and its appeal.
Director Guillermo del Toro (who co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor) has created a love story between two very unlikely beings – one human and one, well, otherworldly. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute custodial worker at a high-security government lab who lives a rather lonely existence, seemingly befriended only by a co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and an apartment complex landlord (Richard Jenkins).
Her job duties provide Elisa access to an otherwise restricted area housing government experiments, one involving an amphibious man (Doug Jones) who, much like Elisa, is mute and an isolated figure. As a relationship between the two develop, so does suspicion by a sadistic government agent (Michael Shannon) who would rather see his version of the Creature from the Black Lagoon (the character and film that undoubtedly influenced del Toro’s vision) dead rather than fall into the hands of Russian operatives. Indeed, the thematic element of the Cold War adds another layer to this dramatic offering.
The film is simultaneously intriguing and repellant. I could do without the sexual scenes, many of which resulted in laughter more than empathy. But there is no doubt that the look and feel of “The Shape of Water” (largely due to the cinematography by Dan Laustsen and the production design by Paul D. Austerberry) is cinematically significant.
It would be too trite to simply compare this story to those of “Beauty and the Beast” and the aforenoted “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” While del Toro has given a nod to each of those films, he has done so by creating something entirely unique; and strange.