Taking place in 1962, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is set against the backdrop of the Cold War and tells the tale of misfits finding love. Winner of two Golden Globes for best director and best score, The Shape of Water is a movie filled with beautiful imagery and scenes set to shock.
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute cleaning lady. She was found as an infant by the water with scratches on her neck which damaged her voice box. Her life consists of a regimentation but she dreams of shoes. Her best friend is a gay, older painter named Giles (Richard Jenkins) who’d been let go from his job as an ad designer and now laments his losses. Giles is rebuffed both with work, even when he does his best and when he reaches out toward love. Together, Giles and Elisa, share a love of old movies and dance numbers.
Working with Elisa in a secret government facility is Zelda Fuller, an outspoken and caring African American woman (Octavia Spencer) who works to support her lazy husband. The two women stumble upon a mysterious asset--a merman who can breathe both in water and on land--which the scientists are studying. Making a connection with the merman, Elisa finds someone who sees her as whole, not a misfit. When the scientists decide to open up the merman and see how he works, Elisa and her friends with the help of a Soviet spy set out to free him.
Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) captured the merman in South America and has brought him to the center in order to find a way to replicate the breathing system for astronauts, allowing them to breathe in space. Using violence to control the creature, Strickland must get the answers he needs or face his own demise. But the merman isn’t complacent nor friendly to anyone other than Elisa. Michael Shannon’s character is angry, brutal and often does things for the shock value. His fascination with both the merman and Elisa borders on obsession.
Guillermo del Toro co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor but the idea was based on the Creature from the Black Lagoon movie which he saw as a child. The Shape of Water resonates with audiences because of the lush visuals as well as the undertones of inequality. The beauty of the love story between Elisa and the merman is touching and leaves us with a good feeling.
With a lot of nudity and swearing, The Shape of Water is not for the younger audience or the faint of heart. But it will leave you believing in the impossible.
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