W hen we see Guillermo del Toro as a movie director we automatically think about fantastical creatures with a human nature (Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth are clear examples) and he did it again in The Shape of Water. Guillermo’s signature is seen from the very beginning and he also lets you know in advance that is going to be sexually explicit (amphibious humanoids and humans alike). As a big fantasy lover that I am, I enjoyed the movie, especially the acting and the “creature” but would I recommend it to others? I am not so sure because it is very long and it gets stalled from time to time. It will keep you on your seat but the storyline was predictable and a little too cloying for my taste.
This fantasy tale takes place during the Cold War and it focuses on a mute girl called Elisa Esposito, grandly performed by Sally Hawkins, who is very lonely and keeps only the company of her senior neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her colleague Zelda Fuller, performed by Octavia Spencer. Elisa works in a cleaning company next to Zelda and they have a very common routine in the graveyard shift until one day a very unique creature (Doug Jones) is taken into custody where they work. This creature resembles an amphibious humanoid that made me think of Atlantis and it is heavily guarded by American Government. A man called Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) is the colonel in charge of the mystical creature. Michael Shannon portrays the typical macho man who likes being on top of everything and everyone, and he also accomplishes his missions, no matter what. But he is very brutal with the creature in particular and to others that do not think like him, such as the Doctor Robert Hoffstetler, performed by Michael Stuhlbarg, who is a spy working for the Soviet Union.
The Russians and the Americans think that this creature holds the key for survival in space for men and neither of them want the other to study this fantastic amphibious humanoid creature. In the midst of the struggle we see two cleaning ladies who have the task of cleaning up the place where the creature is kept, Elisa and Zelda. In her solitude, Elisa starts to interact with the creature, feeding it and teaching it to communicate through sign language. Little by little the infatuation starts to grow and we start to see a bizarre interspecies relationship based on acceptance and unconditional love.
In short, The Shape of Water has an outstanding cast and Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer did an excellent work supporting Sally Hawkins role. The creature is very similar to Abe from Hellboy, so similar that some even may think that they are watching Hellboy 3. At some points the movie gets a little slow and maybe too long but in overall it is enjoyable with some good jokes every now and then and a very sweet love story. Interspecies love may be difficult to digest for some but others are used to that kind of action and will go to see this movie just for the bizarre romance. To finish, this movie is like anchovies: some people really love them and some despise them, it all depends if you have an acquired taste or not.