Oscar Season is the best time of the year. I’ve had a lot of movies on my radar slated to come out in November and December, and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water was at the top of the list. With Del Toro’s filmography, I knew that The Shape of Water would be extremely odd, beautiful, and original. I walked out of the screening literally on cloud 9 and mesmerised at how well crafted the movie was. The Shape of Water is Del Toro’s best movie since the thought-provoking Pans Labyrinth back in 2006, and honestly it may even be better. THERE I SAID IT.
Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist.
There is so much to love about The Shape of Water. Ultimately, it is one part love story and one part suspense story involving the cold war. The movie does a great job of equally balancing the two narratives. Sally Hawkins turns in a vigorous performance as Elisa, a mute cleaning lady at a mysterious government lab. Every time she was on-screen I got chills and I definitely see an Oscar Nomination in her future. The supporting cast was great as well, with Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer delivering respectable and strong performances. Del Toro does a great job crafting his characters in all of his films and in The Shape of Water he is on top on his game like never before. Del Toro’s vision is so unique yet so concise and the average audience doesn’t realize how difficult it is to portray a clear vision for a film like this. Del Toro deserves an Oscar Nomination for Best Director and will possibly get one for Best Original Screenplay.
The central theme of The Shape of Water is love, and a very strange love story forms as the movie progresses. Elisa feels like no one actually understands her as a person and they judge her for being mute and different. She meets Amphibian Man and realizes he sees her for who she truly is, which is something that’s never happened before. Amphibian Man, who is being tortured and abused by Richard Strickland (Shannon), is very skittish around people in the lab. The connection between him and Elisa happens over time of nice egg gestures from Elisa and sweet looks from Amphibian man. It is a strange love story on the surface, but once you understand that both characters see each other for who they are, it is truly beautiful. The Shape of Water gives you a Creature From the Black Lagoon and Beauty and the Beast vibe, just much more unique.
Technically speaking, The Shape of Water hits every aspect out of the park. The way it is shot absolutely blew me away and the color grading really fits the themes of the movie. The production design is very legitimate and it really makes you feel like you’re back in 1962. The score also is mesmerizing and has been in my head every day since I saw the movie. The practical and visual effects on Amphibian Man were STUNNING. As crazy as it sounds, there were times where I was convinced this creature actually exists. The design of Amphibian Man is remarkable as well, and you can definitely tell this came from the mysterious mind of Del Toro. I could see The Shape of Water receiving Oscar Nominations for every technical category.
The screenplay has a great combination of witt, heart, and style. There are moments that will make you laugh and moments that touch your heart. You have to go into The Shape of Water with an open mind because it is not your typical love story on the surface. Del Toro’s writing style is truly like no other, and while The Shape of Water definitely has its flaws, as a viewer you forgive it because of the dazzling cinematic experience.
I wouldn’t say The Shape of Water is the best movie of 2017, but it is in the top 5 of the year. You will walk out of it feeling delighted and hopeful, believing in love in a way that you never have before. The entire cast is phenomenal and Del Toro crafts a story that will tug on your heart-strings in the strangest ways. In a year where the Oscar race is completely open, this might get a Best Picture nomination. Go check out The Shape of Water in theaters, you don’t want to miss it!