The Shape of Water (2017)


Cast includes: Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky, Blue Jasmine), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Octavia Spencer (The Help), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Writer/Director: Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy)
Genre: Fantasy | Suspense | Romance | Sci-fi (123 minutes)


Huffington Post

“If I spoke about it, what would I tell you?” A narrator tells us that it’s a city near the coast. We can see the era is the early 1960s. “It’s about the princess without a voice. It’s about love and loss… and the monster who tried to destroy it all.” September 18th starts much like every morning… Elisa boils eggs and draws a bath. She pleasures herself in the warm water, dresses and heads off to work, stopping by Giles apartment to bring him his lunch and chat in sign language. At Occam, her friend Zelda saves a place in line so she can punch in on time. Elisa and Zelda clean filthy restrooms, so when Occam needs a “new team to clean the most sensitive asset ever to be housed in this facility,” they get the job. “What in the Sam hill?” As Zelda sizes up the job, Elisa taps on the glass. “THUMP!” The ladies are shoved out the door. After work, Elisa and Giles pick up two pieces of pie to go from Dixie Doug’s. “Y’all come back, now.” (And Giles certainly will.) Back home, Elisa encourages Giles about his artwork… the best ever. The pie is awful… he saves it in the refrigerator with all the others.

The next day starts exactly the same… boiling eggs, pleasuring in the bath, dropping off Giles’s lunch, and cutting the line to punch in on time. Cleaning the men’s room, they meet Richard Strickland showing off his “Alabama Howdy Do” … a kind of cattle prod. They get a bad feeling about him. The next time they see Strickland, he’s crumpled in the hall, holding his hand and covered in blood. Elisa and Zelda have just 20 minutes to clean the room covered in blood. Elisa finds two fingers, which she puts in a lunch bag and turns in. The next day, Strickland explain about the “asset,” but first he wants to know why Elisa doesn’t talk. Zelda explains that as a baby, she was found in a basket in the water with her vocal cords ruined… she still has those scars on her neck. So, about the creature… “An affront… I dragged that thing here from South America. We didn’t get to like each other much.” But when Elisa later goes in the room and finds the creature attached to a heavy chain in the pool, she’s curious. They make eye contact. She offers an egg. The creature takes it. She teaches it the sign language for “egg.”

Sadly, this may not be a long-term relationship… “A decision needs to be made about the asset,” and it doesn’t look good. Adding to the tension is an undercurrent of Cold War themes. The Shape of Water is a gorgeous and deeply magical movie. Although it’s fantastical, it’s not made for children. The sexual content gives it an R rating. But beyond that, it is steeped in ideas and language that have long been considered non-PC but were common in the 1960s. The film has a gorgeous mid-century Hollywood look, which is heightened by Elisa’s love of classic romantic musicals. Sally Hawkins as the mute Elisa is remarkable… conveying a full range of emotions without voicing them. Michael Shannon as the villain elicits visceral hatred. The creature… played by a man in a costume and computer enhanced… is strange, fierce and hugely sympathetic. And of course, the script is truly a work of art… both the plot and the dialog are beautifully crafted. The film taps into our longing to connect with those we don’t understand. “When he looks at me, he does not know I am incomplete. He sees me, how I am,” says Elisa.

popcorn rating

4 popped kernels

A mute cleaning lady makes a connection with a voiceless aquatic creature

Popcorn Profile

Rated: R (Nudity, Violence, Sexual Content)
Audience: Young Adults
Gender Style: Sensitive
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Mood: Neutral
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Computer Effects
Nutshell: Relationship with a curious aquatic creature
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure Entertainment & Thought Provoking

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