The Shape of Water Review – A Wild, Fantastical, Journey

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The Shape of Water, from Fox Searchlight Pictures, brings to the screen a fantastical story of awakenings, of emotional stirrings, unbridled passions and unrestrained power, of the improbable becoming probable, of fantasy becoming reality, of hopeless becoming hopeful.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water star Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spence, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Hewlett, Nick Searcy, Stewart Arnott, Nigel Bennett, Lauren Lee Smith, Morgan Kelly, Marvin Kaye, John Kapelos and Doug Jones as the Amphibian Man.

The Shape of Water begins with a gradual receding of water as if we were being led through a sunken ship, with household objects floating through the scenes, the apartment and street until finally the final seconds and last of the water the objects all touch the floor instantaneously as the alarm rings.

This is where we meet Elisa Esposito, played by Sally Hawkins, somewhat shy, reserved, lonely and isolated, who is unable to speak. Not deaf, she hears fine. She begins her days, each day, with the same routine, boil the eggs, set the egg timer, bath, prepare lunch for her neighbor and pack her own.


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She spends a few minutes with Giles, played by Richard Jenkins, each day, an commercial artist who draws advertising art, as we find out they are a odd couple he, her gay neighbor who drank too much at the job and was asked to leave, and really has no one and she also alone.

Each day she heads to her job, and inevitably she is nearly late every day, which is where we find her best friend, Zelda Fuller, played by Octavia Spencer, waiting near the time clock with both cards making sure our Elisa, who also lives in her imagination, is on-time.

The two women are janitorial staff for the government facility and as it is 1960, and the United States is searching under every rock for a Russian spy, and sending teams to scour the earth to find the rarities among every species in hopes it will propel the United States ahead of the Russians in the space war and end the Cold War.

Also working at this top secret government testing facility are Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, and Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon, a temporary clandestine director who handles the special Amphibian Man, played by Doug Jones, a fish scales covered man who was found in the jungles of South America, caught and captured and transported to this facility to be tested and dissected for study.

Strickland is under the direct report to General Hoyt played by Nick Searcy, a by the book, this the 1960’s and the stars you see are earned by making the hard decisions.

One this day the laboratory is abuzz, Elisa and Zelda, who is a friendly pass the time talker, and the two, Elisa’s silence and Zelda chatter fit well together, are called to clean up the lab and prepare to for the arrival of top secret test subject.

Has they happen to be in the lab when the tank arrives, Elisa draw to the tank, like a fish out of water, places her hand over the glass and the man/fish responds. The two are shocked by the never before seen creature.

What follows with our new arrival pits the government who believe in cruelty and death if necessary to further any agenda, and the people, who believe they must act when they see cruelty even if it means standing up to government.

The Shape of Water is very impressive. It is like being invited to travel with someone who has an uninhibited and free creative mind and all we are expected to do is hold on for the ride as we are taken on a mind-bending journey. And it is one, amazing, wild ride.

There are certain parts and without giving away the key moments or plot lines, Guillermo del Toro, as creator of the story and co-author of the screenplay, has created situations to reflect the pervasive fears of Commie invasion in Cold War America, the changes in society of both blacks and Gays, the expected tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace and of course, the male dominance.


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Sally Hawkins, who is receiving many accolades and OSCAR buzz for her role as Elisa, the introvert cleaning lady, who becomes emboldened when touched by love. She is believable in her quest for meaning, she needs more, and needs to belong and we are very much a part of her journey as she finds it and come hell or high water, and government be damned, is not letting it go.

Octavia Spencer brings the comedic element as she goes from the calm, punctual, don’t rock the boat, solid employee, to the frantic, we’re going to burn in hell, co-conspirator.

The men on our journey, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Richard Jenkins take this journey with Elisa, each becoming equally emboldened by her empowerment. Michael Shannon, already high on his power brings a heightened targeted determination as he is given full authority to handle a situation, tame the untamable.

Doug Jones, of course, the Amphibian Man, who doesn’t speak a word, draws the audience into his realm. A tortured animal, capable of human emotions, he is charmed and becomes charming.

The Shape of Water is a psychedelic, mind-bending, gift of an unrestrained imagination.

The Shape of Water opens in theaters in select cities Friday, December 1, 2017, and is set to expand into theaters everywhere after. Check local listings.

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