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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: del Toro's "The Shape of Water" a beautiful reminder of love

Dec 14, 2017 05:01PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Doug Jones and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water - © 2017 Fox Searchlight.

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)

Rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.

Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lauren Lee Smith, Nick Searcy, David Hewlett.

Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro.



Loving and being loved are necessary human needs. You may think that’s an overly evident fact, but in today’s world of polemic ideologies and cultural warfare, that plain truth is often forgotten, especially among folks who work and live in the shadows. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a beautiful reminder of humanity’s need for love and acceptance, and he uses a “monster” to make his point.

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a mute janitor at a secret government facility in the 1960s, where Col. Strickland (Michael Shannon) is conducting tests on an amphibious man-creature (Doug Jones) they call “The Asset” (Jones also played Abe Sapien, a similar creature in del Toro’s Hellboy films). As Strickland conducts brutal tests on the creature, Elisa begins to interact with him, developing basic communication through sign language. As their relationship develops, Strickland is ordered to kill the creature and dissect him. With a little help from a Russian spy (Michael Stuhlbarg), her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and Giles (Richard Jenkins), her closeted neighbor, Elisa develops a plan to rescue the creature from the lab and take him to her apartment near the ocean until the tide is high enough to release him. As the creature stays with Elisa, their relationship becomes even more intimate. Meanwhile Strickland is on the war path to find and kill the creature.

The Shape of Water is a beautiful film with a simple and profound theme about love and acceptance, especially for those who face roadblocks in expressing those needs. Del Toro illustrates those roadblocks in depictions of racism, homophobia and neglect of people who have disabilities. The inhuman “creature,” is the vehicle through which Elisa and others discover this truth.

Sally Hawkins gives a powerful performance in the lead role, using a soulful and loud voice without uttering a single auditory word. Richard Jenkins also delivers another great screen portrayal of a marginalized man with kindness in his heart.

Del Toro has a knack for melding striking visual effects into his narratives about the human (and inhuman) experience, and The Shape of Water is no exception. It may be his best work, and it’s certainly one of the best films of the year.

One parental caution: The Shape of Water is rated R for good reason, containing sexuality, nudity and some graphic violence, so get a sitter.  

The Shape of Water Trailer