The Shape of Water is a 2017 American fantasy drama film directed by Guillermo del Toro, starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film is set in Baltimore in 1962 and follows the story of a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory that falls in love with a humanoid amphibian creature.
Elisa Esposito (Hawkins) tries to save the creature from vivisection ordered by General Frank Hoyt to be performed by Colonel Richard Strickland (Shannon). One scientist Robert Hoffstetler (Stuhlbarg), who is actually a Soviet spy named Dimitri, begs to keep the creature alive, but is not successful. He tries to help Elisa along with her coworker and interpreter Zelda Delilah Fuller (Spencer) and her neighbor Giles (Jenkins) to save the creature by sneaking him out of the laboratory. Elisa falls in love with him, although the General and Colonel are after him. She and Giles find out that living with the amphibious being is hard, because he has never lived in a house before and becomes vicious, scratching Giles and killing one of Giles’ cats. After the being learns that what he did was wrong, he heals Giles’ arm and is seen petting the other cats.
Elisa is to release the creature in a canal on a certain date and when Strickland finds out, he becomes furious learning that she has been keeping him in her home. He goes to the canal and attacks them all, but the creature heals himself and kills Strickland. He dives into the canal with Elisa and heals her by bringing her back to life, removing the scars on her neck and giving her gills instead.
This is another strange sort of love story. Some may call it beastiality, like other popular movies, Twilight, Beauty and the Beast and Beastly, but whether you think that or not, this film still captures a love story between two different beings and does it spectacularly. Everything from the scenery to the costumes, especially the creature, is done extraordinarily, giving the feeling of vintage meets futuristic. The film portrays love, compassion, friendship and enemies.
Sally Hawkins shines as Elisa Esposito and never utters a word, only uses sign language. This is by far her best performance ever, although I do love her in Paddington, this one surpasses it. She was the best choice for this role and deserved every Best Lead Actress nomination she has been given. I can’t imagine this film without her character, she’s what made the story along with the creature.
Michael Shannon does a great job as Colonel Richard Strickland. He knows how to portray an evil character brilliantly. His mannerisms and voice are right portion of sinister for this role. Another perfect choice by del Toro, because he hits the mean right on the head.
Richard Jenkins does a good, not great job as Giles. Not worthy of any award nominations in my opinion. He wasn’t anything special in this, except that he was an artist, but either he could have performed this character better or the role could have been given to someone else. Not sure whether this is Jenkins’ or del Toro’s fault, but not Richard’s best performance.
Octavia Spencer does a pretty good job as Zelda, but she is also another goofy character for most of the film, I don’t know whether this a good thing or not, because in some scenes it works, others it does not. I believe she could have been made more serious to fit the story better, but she still doesn’t excel like her role in The Help.
Michael Stuhlbarg is fine, not great as Dimitri. His part could have been bigger. Nick Searcy does well as General Frank Hoyt, another character that could have been bigger also.
Overall, I thought this was a very well done film. Did I think it was Best Pic worthy? Not really. But it was entertaining, fascinating at times, not throughout and was genuinely very good. 18+ 3.5/5