The Shape of Water is written and directed by Guillermo del Toro. There was a lot of hype leading to the film and it received glowing reviews. It was recently nominated for 13 Oscar awards, making it the most nominated film this year. The film arrived in local theaters a month after national release, and it was worth the wait.
The lead of the story is Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, a mute woman who cleans during late hours at Occam Aerospace Research Center with her friend Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer. The center receives a top secret project the scientists must research, a near-human creature no one has ever seen before. By research, they mean torture to see what happens.
Elisa connects with this amphibian-like animal, and they intimately understand each other without verbal communication. Elisa attempts to rescue the creature with the help of Zelda and her neighbor Giles before the boss of the project catches up to kill the creature.
It was an exciting and charming story. There are fairy tale elements, like Elisa’s origins. In the beginning, Zelda explains to their superior that she was found by the river as a baby with gill-like scars on her neck and brought to an orphanage.
With her connection to water and the creature, it was obvious that they were meant to be. This shuts down any beastiality claim, because both of them weren’t humans to begin with. Without the ability to talk, Elisa is still expressive and has a great sexuality to her. She desires love and sex, but doesn’t display her sexuality to the world. If writers are to write a sexy character, it should be for the character and not for the audience, like Elisa.
Like all fairy tales, there should be a villain, and her boss, Colonel Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, is a decent villain. Strickland is not necessarily maniacal, but he tortures the creature without regret and talks down to everyone around him.
Strickland goes home in his new car to adoring kids and a loving wife that asks for sex, but he acts like it’s a chore. He clearly has a good life, but has no appreciation for it, making his defeat all the more satisfying.
If you like fairy tales with more bite than the average Grimms tale, or nostalgia for black and white musicals, this is worth catching before it leaves theaters.