The Shape of Water

RATED - (R) -123-MIN-2017

                         The Shape of Water is an original and lovely Fairy Tale 

Just like Writer/Director (Guillermo del Toro), I grew up watching old monster movies in reruns on TV. One of my favorites of all time was like his: (Creature from the Black Lagoon). I still think the monster looks pretty good for its time, and certainly many filmmakers were inspired by this classic black and white film. The fabulous underwater scene, of the Fishman swimming underneath the girl, sure reminds me of Spielberg's classic shot, with the shark's point of view, looking up at his victim from his masterpiece (JAWS). 

(del Toro), behind all his ghoulish creations and icky gore filled scenes, is a visionary and imaginative writer and director. His absolutely brilliant (Pan's Labyrinth) put him on the map as a filmmaker to be reckoned with. His movies: (Hellboy, Hellboy II, and Pacific Rim) were terrific fun, along with all the other things he dabbles in.

With his new eagerly awaited, and now highly praised, adult romantic fable: (The Shape of Water), (del Toro) shows us that he
is on his game again and this will be an Oscar contender for sure.The production design is worth the price of admission, along with the beautiful score by (Alexandre Desplat).

Set during the early 60's Cold War era, (The Shape of Water) tells the tale of a lonely mute woman, with scars on her neck from a childhood event, that may have left her speechless. Elisa Esposito (an absolutely radiant Sally Hawkins) spends the days in her rundown Baltimore apartment, watching old musicals on TV with her closeted gay neighbor: Giles (Richard Jenkins who also narrates), a struggling advertising artist. They are two romantics who feel out of place. They feel...well, like fish out of water. They live above an old movie theater that is barely filled and dream of different lives. The music, with their little dances here and there, along with the movies on TV, take them away from their lot in life for a bit.

Elisa, who has an interesting way to time a boiled egg, takes the bus each night to a secret government research facility called: OCCAM, where she works the night shift with her talkative coworker: Zelda (the wonderful Octavia Spencer). They spend their time around the facility cleaning up after the scientists. It is a grim, dirty and cold place, that doesn't pay well, but its a job.

One night, a new specimen is brought into the facility being held in a tube filled with murky green water. It was captured in the Amazon by the stern and scary Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon, who is great as usual) and announces that this new "Asset" was thought to be a God by the natives from where it came from. Strickland, who carries a cattleprod sort of weapon he likes to use often on the creature, has been ordered using any means necessary to learn what they can of this Asset. They must discern if it can be used to advance it in a military application before the Russians can learn of its existence. Too late on that one, and this is one of the movie's subplots. The head scientist: Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a bit wary of Strickland invading his lab.  He has his own motives also, but he seems sympathetic to the creature in some way.

A bit too curious Elisa, touches the tube and a rather scary fishlike hand pushes up against the glass. One night, while Elisha and Zelda are cleaning one of the hallway floors, a bloodied Strickland barges out the lab where the Asset is being held, holding what is left of one bloodied hand. This for some reason, doesn't deter Elisa, and when they are asked to clean up the mess inside, she decides to take a peek into the green water to see whats what.

What she finds, through some scary and then softer moments, is that this being is a prisoner, who is away from where it needs to be, and is in extreme danger at the hands of the terrifying Strickland. He hates it more after what it did to him, even though it was just protecting itself. The Asset becomes trusting of Elisa, and she brings him hard boiled eggs, plays music on a record player, and teaches him to sign language. It is there, if you surrender to the story being told, that a romance begins. The amphibious Man, who has a (not by accident), strong resemblance to that aforementioned monster from that classic old movie, is played by (del Toro) regular: (Doug Jones), an expert at hiding behind elaborate costumes and makeup and emoting marvelously. He is a master of this kind of performance and he adds just the right amount of cornered animal hostility, followed by the cautious understanding, that this young woman who can't speak, is actually his friend in this strange world he has been carted off to.

I must say, that this movie threw me for a bit, as it wasn't quite what I was expecting, and that's usually a good thing. It was, and there is a crucial scene when (Hawkins) opens up her heart to her trusting friend (Jenkins) and explains why Giles must help her save this being from certain death. This is a beautifully written, perfectly acted, pivotal moment, and there for me, the movie clicked.

Certainly, to an extent, this Beauty and the Beast story has been told many times before, but it is the creative way that (del Toro) crafts his film, with a heavy nostalgia in the look and music, a sharp look at prejudice and discriminations of the time, and the exaggerated look of some of the sets that firmly put his stamp on this strange poetic movie. Would you believe there is a small musical dance number? There is, and in the context of the film's palette, especially as (Jenkins) is the one who narrates, makes perfect sense through his romantic view of the world. This was pointed out to me by a person I saw the film with, and I couldn't agree more.  

All of the cast is absolutory perfect, and even though you may know where this is going to in some spots, (del Toro) still has some surprise for you, and he concludes his story with a perfect ending when you think back on it. That doesn't happen a lot at the movies. What an original and lovely film he has made.

You should see this movie.

watch the trailer: