The Shape of Water Movie Review

Elisa Esposito and the Amphibian Man embrace one another underwater.

The Shape of Water is an artistic period film that aims to redefine what's socially acceptable, with great acting and even a dash of sci-fi. (I'm a Michael Shannon fan from his Boardwalk Empire days. Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins do a fine job as well.)

My box office options over the weekend were The Shape of Water and Jumanji. I'm glad I opted for the former.

The Shape of Water is a beautifully crafted period piece directed by Guillermo del Toro that combines hints of music, dancing, art, theatre, "atypical" love, and even a fantastic semi-humanoid merman sea creature. It's a diverse and multifaceted film that can either please a narrow audience multiple ways, or somewhat appeal to a broad range of people.

The main character falls in love with an amphibious alien-esque creature, and her neighbor and best friend is a homosexual male. For these reasons, I felt the story's primary message is that love is blind, and that it's okay to love people, places, and things, that stand out from the social norm.

The film's lead scientist, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, was my personal favorite character. He plays an American scientist that's secretly a Russian spy. Ultimately, the scientist in him trumps his other allegiances, when he decides to go against the wishes of the people he reports to, to help save the life of the Amphibian Man, which is primarily referred to as "The Asset" in The Shape of Water.

What I enjoyed most about this film was the lack of street racing, vehicles turning into giant robots, and flying caped crusaders. The film industry as a whole could use many more films like The Shape of Water and Blade Runner 2049, in my humble opinion.

That said, a film doesn't have to be indie in every way shape or form, or be airing solely at some sort of film festival, in order to be layered and meaningful, so I commend any film that employs artistry and depth, while simultaneously striving for the mass-market and broad appeal/distribution.

The asset uses his special powers to save Elisa's life.

Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures

The first half of the film contains a strange pacing conundrum. On one hand, the relationship between Elisa and the merman creature seems rushed, as if it's developing on a whim, while on the other hand, the pace of the film in general is on the slower side. It reminds me of a teenaged driver with a learner's permit, alternating between the gas and brake pedals, causing the vehicle to jerk up and down.

The second half of the film, however, flowed effortlessly. It was engaging and well-paced. Without giving too much more away, I will say that the ending is climactic enough and will most likely provide you with a satisfactory conclusion.

Fans of period films in general should definitely see this film. Science fiction movie fans with friends or partners that aren't as into sci-fi are good candidates for The Shape of Water as well, because the movie can please both parties. If you're like me, you take your sci-fi intravenously, which leaves your significant other wondering if you (or they) will ever see a non-science fiction film ever again. The Shape of Water is a great flick to catch if you're looking for that perfect compromise.

Also, fans of artsy films should see this movie as well. Especially if the idea of a film that feels equal parts big budget picture and independent/artsy sounds appealing to you.

Cyberpunk science fiction is my preferred subgenre of sci-fi. However, I'm constantly emphasizing the importance of art, craft, and storytelling in today's filmmaking, and The Shape of Water is a gleaming example of those elements done right.

The general consensus on The Shape of Water is very positive, as the film boasts great Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes, and IMDb scores. While I feel allowing these metrics to be the sole decision makers when deciding whether or not to see a movie is a bad idea, I certainly don't mind taking these factors into consideration before deciding to see a movie.

If you're still not convinced this movie is worth your time and money, the film's IMDb page shares the following message: "Congratulations to The Shape of Water, which won two awards at the 2018 Golden Globes including Best Director - Motion Picture for Guillermo del Toro."

(There's also a novelization of the film available, co-authored by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus, if you prefer to ingest your stories in literary form.)

Regardless of which demographic you fall into, The Shape of Water contains a healthy blend of suspense and heartfelt warmth, making it a great movie for just about anybody to see.


Feature Image: Macmillan Publishing Group

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