Movie review: The Shape of Water

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of another awards movie. This is The Shape of Water!

IMDb summary: At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

Writing

The Shape of Water was written by the director Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor (who wrote Divergent and the upcoming live-action Alladin and has also worked on Game of Thrones). I thought that the duo crafted a unique yet familiar love story. The characters – the mute woman and the creature – were the two things that made the conventional plot into an unconventional (subverted) and extraordinary one. It was interesting to see how Elisa’s disability made her more empathetic towards other individuals who were shunned by society (not only the creature but the (?)gay (he is never labeled in the movie) neighbor but the black co-worker). Her specific disability (being mute) and her gender (female) also had an interesting correlation with the idea of women being silenced/having no voice in that period (the 1960s – prior to the sexual revolution and the overt women’s rights movements).

The hints at the fact that the amphibian man was the one who hurt her as a child made for some fascinating implications in their relationship too. For one, that possibility (of him maybe having hurt her) and some of his other actions in the film made him seem as a creature in which goodness and destruction coexist (sort of like in humanity: Hawkins‘ character symbolizing the kindness and Shannon’s – the violence). The whole romantic relationship between the two characters was just so pure, even adorable and yet still slightly creepy. The picture didn’t shy away from the more questionable parts of the relationship (Beauty and the Beast never raised those kinds of questions) which was quite brave, in my mind, mostly in risking alienating the audience. The film’s ending was quite unexpected, to me, personally. I was assuming that the script will go the melancholic route – ‘if you love, let go’ – but The Shape of Water chose the hopeful/happy fairytale conclusion and finished on the note of love and unity. That was quite an escapist ending but it did fit the surreal quality of the film.

A few other notes on the writing. First, I loved this movie’s appreciation for cinema and creative arts in general (painting, drawing). I’ve always loved films which love (like me) and pay homage to other motion pictures (I’d love to live above the movie theatre). The second interesting point of writing that was somewhat divorced from the main love story was Michael Shannon’s arc and his character’s relation to the ideas of the male success and the expectations for such success. Failure was not an option for him and it is still not seen as a legitimate or appropriate part of the construction of masculinity, especially the white privileged form of masculinity.

Directing

Guillermo del Toro directed The Shape of Water and succeeded in crafting almost a spiritual sequel (an adult one) to Pan’s Labyrinth (while I have liked his more action-driven works like Hellboy and its sequel and Pacific Rim, his weirder creations (fantasy realism or realistic fantasies) were always more fascinating to me and that includes Crimson Peak). Anyways, speaking about this picture, I adored its mixed tonne. The Shape of Water was both a genre movie and a typical awards movie. It was an old-school monster thriller/horror movie (think the original Universal Monsters Universe, Creature from the Black Lagoon) as well as an old-school romantic drama with some shades of the theatrical musical or more than just shades in one particular sequence (think Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, just recently La La Land). The adult tone that I’ve mentioned in the opening sentence was that fact that the film had sexual and sensual undertones that one would not find in a more family-friendly film, like Pan’s Labyrinth (though, both that movie and The Shape of Water were rated R, so maybe Pan’s Labyrinth isn’t that all-ages appropriate as I remember).

Visually, the film looked stunning. The 1960s world of science was well realized (stellar production design) and the underwater sequences at the beginning and the end of the film were amazing (top-notch cinematography). The movie’s and the main character’s relationship to water was realized so cleverly and beautifully too. The costume design and the makeup were impeccable as well: the monster looked incredibly real.

Acting

Sally Hawkins (Paddington 2) delivered a brilliant performance that shined through the limited means of expression, a.k.a., she was amazing, even though, she barely said any lines. She seemed so endearing and had such a complex interplay innocence and maturity about her. And, although she was so great in the film, part of me wishes that the role would have been given to am an actually mute actress – I’d love to see more opportunities being extended to actors with disabilities (or special abilities). The TV show Switched at Birth has taught me that there are quite a few mute and deaf actors working in the business.

Doug Jones (a longtime collaborator of del Toro, currently part of the main cast of Star Trek: Discoveryor the Andy Serkis of practical costumes/effects was great as the creature and was definitely more than able to act through all that rubber. Michael Shannon (12 Strong, Nocturnal Animals, Loving) was also fascinating to watch even when though he played a very despicable character. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Allegiant) also had some fun scenes, while Richard Jenkins was amazing as the neighbor. Michael Stuhlbarg also had a small role in the film (and applause go to him and his agent for having three awards movie this season – The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, and The Post – that join numerous other awards movies in his filmography, including the recent ones: Steve Jobs, Trumbo, and Arrival).

In short, The Shape of Water was one of those movies that made me go ‘huh?!’ and made me unsure what to feel (or think) in the best way possible.

Rate: 4,8/5

Trailer: The Shape of Water trailer

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Current favorite actress: Shailene Woodley

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Shailene Woodley is a 22 year old American actress, who started her acting career on the small screen, particularly, in an ABC family’s teen drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager. The show ran for 5 seasons from 2008 till 2013. By the end of it, it had lost a lot of fans because it started repeating the same stories and dragging on the new ones. More importantly, almost all the fans were disappointed with the ending of the series.  I was a loyal fan of the show, started watching it around the 3rd season. Shailene’s character was probably one of the most annoying characters in a history of television for me. Nonetheless, I enjoyed her performance as an actress because she really made me hate that character.

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In 2011, Shailene moved to the big screen and stared in family drama The Descendants alongside George Clooney. For the role in this movie Shailene received recognition form the critics and won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as was nominated for the Golden Globe in the same category.

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In 2013, she once again received an Independent Spirit Award’s nomination for the lead role in coming of age drama The Spectacular Now. Milles Teller also started in this movie as her love interest and later moved on to be her enemy in Divergent. (See a post about him here).

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2014 were the best year so far for Shailene. She got the lead role of Tris in Divergent – dystopian young adult book to movie adaptation.  Of course, Shailene and Divergent were immediately compared to Jennifer Lawrence and The Hunger Games. I believe that Shailene stood her ground and she was excellent in the film.

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Another big film of 2014 was The Fault in Our Stars (review). Beloved book by youtuber/author John Green was one of the most anticipated book adaptations ever and Shailene got a worldwide recognition as well as praise for her portrayal of Hazel – a teenage girl who knows she is going to die from cancer. Her brother form the Divergent series – Ansel Elgort – also stared (as her love interest this time).

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White Bird in a Blizzard – another independent Shailene’s movie. It was released in 2013 in some countries and only a year later in others.  This movie was super peculiar to me: some themes felt disconnected form others. I couldn’t understand what a mother’s problems had to do with a teenage girl’s sexuality. I guess it showed how bad parenting affects children, what a loveless marriage can do to you and what a strong feeling jealousy is. But how can there be jealousy in a family? That just seemed straight up strange. I have never felt anything remotely close to the things they portrayed. However, I agreed with one idea of the movie: something can look perfect from the outside, but deep under covers, the truth might be completely different.

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Shailene has strong beliefs when it comes to the environment. She tries to help save our nature, uses only ecological make-up and hair products and strongly expresses her opinions about saving and cherishing our world.

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Next in Shailene’s future stand 3 more movies in the Divergent series (2015, 2016 and 2017). She currently doesn’t have any more announced projects but I believe that she has a bright future ahead of her. She definitely deserves an Oscar nomination and I believe she will get one sometime soon for a role in another independent movie.

Shailene’s style:

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Photos: Google Images