Movie review: ‘Shape of Water’

Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-nominated film is an unconventional love story

Due to its 13 Oscar nominations and its recent critical praise, I was expecting Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” to be something truly terrific. Although it didn’t live up to my grand expectations, it did pleasantly surprise me.

“The Shape of Water” is assuredly a love story. However, it is a not-so-conventional one. Elisa Esposito, played by Sally Hawkins, is a mute cleaning lady who works at a government facility in 1962 Baltimore. When she discovers the facility’s biggest secret, an amphibious god-like creature from the Amazon, she begins to develop a bond with it, caring deeply for it and becoming emotionally attached. As the government officials increase their cruel treatment of the creature, Elisa must do what she can to protect what is important to her.

First off, one of the biggest takeaways from this film is that it is absolutely stunning to watch. The movie absorbs the audience with its gorgeous visual aesthetics. The time period is captured perfectly with the fine attention to detail thanks to the production and costume design. From the very beginning, the fantasy-like, fluid camera movement captured by Dan Laustsen is captivating. As the camera glides around, we cannot help being immersed in the film. The movie should be watched for its visual appeal alone.

Furthermore, the performances in the movie are top notch. The real showstopper was undoubtedly Sally Hawkins. The amount of emotion and passion she delivered with only uttering a few words was incredible; her performance relied entirely on her body language. The rest of the cast was extremely talented as well. Both Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer gave such sentimental performances, while Michael Shannon made it so easy to love to hate his character. It says something that three out of the four leading actors in the movie were nominated for an Oscar.

The story of “The Shape of Water” is great — but it is not amazing. The movie tried to squeeze too much into so little time. There were times the film felt rushed and times when the pacing was too slow due to unnecessary scenes that carried no significance. The film also became predictable in its third act, which made it more difficult to appreciate. The amount of effort that was put into the symbolism and themes was impressive. Every character’s goal in the film was to become complete and not to feel lonely, to fill the void based on their own flaws. Language furthers this theme; there are a total of five different languages that the movie focuses on to further the feeling of isolation. There are many other small recurring little details throughout the film that are waiting to be analyzed.

“The Shape of Water” is an original piece of work, a quality that is not commonly found anymore. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful movie of the year, one that is certainly worth watching. Don’t be surprised if it goes home with a handful of Oscars.

Three stars out of four.