Directed by: Guillermo del Toro

Written by: Guillermo del Toro (screenplay by), Vanessa Taylor (screenplay by)

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins

Surely the one of the most moving films in recent memory, amazingly emotional moments are captured within a story that at first seems far-fetched, but becomes powerful in its way of describing a strong bond between two souls, no matter their differences. If anything the concept becomes less kooky as it realises the story that emerges from the dramatic shift in the surroundings for a romantic relationship.

The Shape of Water is a varied tale that somehow deftly swings from comedy to aquatic sci-fi to romance to thriller, never losing stride, the inevitable tonal shifts rarely a concern, rarely noticeable. Divided neatly into two halves, in the first we meet the creature of the feature, an incredibly unique creation that just doesn’t look realistic, it looks realistic every time it interacts in any way with any character. And apart from the creature, very little of the film, if any, uses CGI, except perhaps to improve the look of water-filled shots (which aren’t as frequent as you might think).

It is an excellently crafted genre-hopping experience whose second half becomes tense as a very real bond we have witnessed grow becomes jeopardised; a mute cleaner at the facility where the creature is kept form an unspoken bond – the execution here is key as it avoids almost all hints of sentimentality or soap-like moments. The entire film is balanced perfectly in this regard: moving, but far from sappy. Sally Hawkins plays her wordless role to perfection.

The decision to base the film in the early 60’s is an ideal setting, as the Cold War begins to escalate, offering a perfect political backdrop. This detail also increases the intrigue surrounding the romance, making for one of those great fictional stories based in that tense era of history.

And hey, it could have happened. Who’s to say it didn’t? There is a lot we don’t know about this era of history, and this uncertain background helps raise the tension as the stakes increase and rise up the ranks of those who are tasked with maintaining both control of the creature, or the ‘asset’, but also guarding it from possible Soviet interference.

This perfect setting also allows us to indulge in the soundtrack, including a few pre-60s tracks, but the bulk of it is another memorable score by Alexandre Desplat, this time teaming up with The London Symphony Orchestra. It presents a near perfect atmospheric audible backdrop; they have crafted a beautiful soundtrack that importantly is within the period, some of which sounds somehow aquatic.

Despite what it could have been, despite an incredible Michael Shannon looking as menacing as ever, complete with an excellent, cold character and quick, divisive and cutting dialogue, the experience is wrong-footed by one, multi-pronged problem.

The screenplay, while nothing to turns one’s nose at, is let-down by an average script bar a few profound moments. But worse is some moments of a sudden profound loss of logic that cause the progression of some scenes to seem irrational and unbelievable, even within such a fantastical story, as so much effort has been exerted elsewhere to transplant this fantasy tale into a very real part of human history.

While it is obviously a device to set the core of the film, early chain of events that lead to the meeting of cleaner and creature could have been far more believable, and therefore more creative. There are other strange lapses of judgement; most notably a peculiar black and white dream sequence that feels not only jarring but also as if it were forced in as the sequence further depicts the period the movie romanticises throughout; the 30’s through to the 50’s for the most part.

There is also a problem with the comedic aspect very occasionally ruining a dramatic moment, though this is for the most part handled well. There are perhaps too many comic elements that intrude though, occasionally ruining the atmosphere that had been created.

Some aspects of the screenplay may affect the film in ways that are hard to ignore while others were simply underwhelming, but there is no doubt that this is an incredibly unique and powerful romantic story that is beautiful in parts and in the second half goes through quite a roller-coaster. Despite this combination of genres, this is a simple story that is oddly very human and one that is easy to relate to.

One short of a sixer.


17 Comments on “THE SHAPE OF WATER [2017]

  1. Nice review Jordan. While the screenplay does have some notable flaws, del Toro’s direction and Hawkins and Jenkins’ performances really make Water a memorable feature. I think its blend of sci-fi, horror, and romance works extremely well, even if the dialogue isn’t perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. There was no way I could rate it as perfect but it is one of the few romantic films – probably the only one that isn’t dark and twisted – that I not only enjoyed but was moved by. Excellent acting I agree.

      And of course it got nominated for cinematography. Was it just me or was there nothing special there? The Killing of a Sacred Deer was superior in every way, there is a reason people have compared it to Kubrick.

      Though awards are just popularity contests, hence my almost total ignorance of them. But it really wouldn’t surprise me if it won best cinematography over Dunkirk.

      On the flipside, I can’t think of a score than comes close to this. its so period perfect. Only others I can think of are again Dunkirk and Good Time, but like Good Time will win anything at all. Pattinson is a much more deserving leading actor than Denzel, but again, this is why I put no effort and exert no emotion over ‘snubs’. They are always there and always will be, no use crying over spilled milk as they say

      Have you had a chance to catch Lucky? Its online man you NEED to see it

      Liked by 1 person

      • Unfortunately, Good Time is not the sort of movie that get a lot of awards (a small, gritty thriller with a largely immoral protagonist about racism and gentrification isn’t exactly cheerful). Yet it’s a film I suspect people will be talking about for years to come. The same goes with Sacred Deer as well.

        On another note, you’ve got to check out Phantom Thread; it’s the best movie I’ve seen all year. PTA did the cinematography himself and it looks gorgeous. Plus, Johnny Greenwood’s score is superb (hopefully, that wins); it’s even better than his other soundtracks for PTA.

        There’s a theater replaying Lucky in mid-february, so I’m going to wait it out. Really regret missing this in theaters..

        On another note, have you checked out the new Tribulation album? I know you’re not too big into black n’ roll, but it’s really fun, and could be a top contender for album of the year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I dig black thrash, I might dig it. Never heard of em before

        Phantom Thread finally opens here on Thursday. I heard PTA did his own cinematography this time around, I think more directors should tbh, but I imagine it is very time consuming. I’ll have to wait to hear the score but for me Shape of Water is hard to beat.

        The cinematography in Sacred Deer is just incredible. The soundtrack is amazing as well, I have found some new classical composers to check out

        Liked by 1 person

      • Can’t say I dig the tunes man =[

        I cannot wait till tomorrow. Phantom Thread on first release, so excited!!! PTA doing his own cinematography… damn. Really wish more directors did, pretty sure Kubrick did as he was originally a photgrapher

        Liked by 1 person

      • Off the top of my head, Kubrick only did the cinematography for Killer’s Kiss and some of his early docs, but he did often like operating the camera himself (some of the tracking shots from The Shining were done by him). In any case, more directors should try working behind the camera.

        That’s too bad about Tribulation, they’re a real favorite of mine. What about Portal?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Portal are amazing. New album just came out, gotta give at a listen now. They are Aussie too, their live show was nuts

        Outre though is freaking amazing,. One of my faves

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haven’t listened to it in full yet, but I have really dug the new Portal album from what I’ve listened thus far. Will check out Outre and Swarth, haven’t heard of them before.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dude. Outre and Swarth are two of the most uncoventional black metal albums ever.

        This is a masterpiece imo. Give it a listen, be prepared, it is not normal in ANY sense.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is released where I am very soon and I really want to see it. It sounds like such an experience and a very moving movie.


  3. I loved this movie. It’s incredibly creative, despite being pretty f–king familiar too. Like, we’ve seen this story before… but never like this.

    I actually loved how nonchalant they were about the meeting, suggesting this was just another day at the office. Imagine what goes on in this place!!!

    Great review, Jordan.

    Liked by 1 person

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