The Shape Of Water (2017) Review: Beautifully Different
If I told you about the best film of the year, what would I say? Certainly not that it’s ‘The Shape of Water’. No instead, what I will say is that ‘The Shape of Water’ is a movie that is unlike any other, which is par for the course with director Guillermo Del Toro. It’s set in the early 1960s and follows the strange love story of a woman and a man. Only the woman is a human and the man, is covered head to toe in scales.
If that description is enough to scare you off, then you have no business seeing ‘The Shape of Water’. It is definitely a film that explores the unconventional, to say the least. With a story so submerged in fantasy, you’d think the film would be more of a fairy tale. In fact, while ‘The Shape of Water’ can feel very surreal at times, I was surprised at just how gritty the film was.
The first half of the film shows this the most. You spend ample amount of time watching Sally Hawkins character Eliza Esposito silently go about her day as a cleaning lady at the facility where she finds her finned lover. What you benefit from this is a real sense of what this world is. More importantly, who the people in it are.
Eliza is a mute, communicating mostly by sign language with her roommate, played by Richard Jenkins, and her coworker, played by Octavia Spencer. Both brought a sense of humanity to this movie, as their relatable characters grounded an otherwise unbelievable tale. It’s a pity then that the film doesn’t succeed at this on all accounts, particularly as it relates to Michael Shannon’s character, a villain too obvious for a Disney movie. Michael Shannon already exudes creepiness. Why would you play that up?
From the moment he steps into frame, there’s no mistaking the character. Enveloped in shadow, and clad almost entirely in black, with a dark hat. The character helps to bring across the movie’s storybook quality. Its villain is as evil as he can b because there needs to be one for the fairy tale. In that way, it works, but so much of ‘Shape of Water’ dives into developing real characters that it nevertheless feels out of place.
It wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t given so much screentime. I’d appreciate it if he was treated as a figurehead. A literal object of opposition, but instead the film gives him so much screen time that it only repeats itself. Having a one-note character so prominent in the film just becomes grating. Still, there was plenty I still enjoyed in ‘Shape of Water’. Its marvelous aesthetic beauty is surpassed only by its touching message of kindness and empathy, in the face of adversity. All that and a near perfect score by Alexandre Desplat.
‘Shape of Water’ is a movie that takes its time to tell its story. Perhaps a little too much time in parts. While some might find the film’s pairing unnerving, underneath the surface there is something entirely relatable to it. Many people feel like outsiders in their lives and strive to find a person to connect with. While I didn’t always connect with ‘Shape of Water’, I commend it for daring to be different. It plays with an old type of story and creates something that is entirely its own.
Rating: Big Screen Watch