With The Shape of Water, director Guillermo Del Toro answers the question that probably no one thought to ask, “What happens when Beauty and The Beast inspires a Stylized Superhero Period Piece?”
Fans of the genre agree. No stranger to the comic book genre, acclaimed director Kevin Smith even tweeted, “Seeing something as beautiful as this makes me feel stupid for ever calling myself a “Director”. Man, this is beautiful!”
The Shape of Water is a fairy tale directed by Guillermo Del Toro depicting a perfect romance between a mute woman by the name of Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins) and a unique scaled aquatic creature (Doug Jones) who find trust, empathy, and love through music and dance.
For Eliza, working as a janitor at a government laboratory located in Baltimore, every day was a routine: wake up, take a shower, visit her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), get on the bus, and meet her friend Zelda at work. That is, until a new experiment surfaced at the laboratory.
In the eyes of all of the scientist and generals involved, this experiment could aid America’s ability to be first at discovering a rare amazonian river “asset” that would shift the technological balance of power. Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), drunken with the governmental power he acquired, abused the creature to every extent while making the workers equally uncomfortable with his sick sense of sexual harassment more directed to Eliza than anyone else. This particular character works as a human manifestation of many injustices in America through his background of accomplishing the official American dream. His toxic masculinity is shown with how he treated the women who worked at the lab, and his desire to be powerful is also displayed through his abuse of the innocent merman.
Although in the lab the merman was only seen as an experiment that needed to be dissected, Eliza saw a living-being capable of emotion, communication and empathy; she saw a beautiful being.
Initially, Eliza was given the orders to just clean the lab quickly and then leave. But why do that when one is given a chance at experiencing love? So instead of cleaning, Eliza captures the attention of the merman every day, and nurtured the similarities between them even though they were two different species. They eventually fell in love hard and fast.
Even though Eliza had friends before meeting the merman, she often described herself as incomplete. She lived alone and, although she didn’t show it very much, she wanted to be loved deeper than what her friends could give her. By being able to meet someone who looks past what she wasn’t capable of and only saw her for what she actually was, she wasn’t able to just leave the unique man alone.
The Shape of Water shows the true meaning of love. This tale love definitely is a unique one but it is a beautiful story. Battling against the racist, homophobic and toxic male power culture of 1962, with a soundtrack and music score that moves the story through painful and touching story arcs, Eliza navigates the many ignorances, insensitivities and personalities of the time. This movie showed that differences, whether by physical appearance or due to a lack of certain abilities, do not mean that people should be excluded from the privilege of experiencing true love. Also, in order for one to live the life they want they must take brave actions towards those goals.
Fans of film will certainly appreciate any of the bold cinematic choices, performances, stylistic accomplishments, and overall directorial vision of Del Toro’s latest work, as also recognized by
14 Oscar nominations for 2017:
Best Director — Guillermo del Toro
Best Actress — Sally Hawkins
Best Supporting Actor — Richard Jenkins
Best Supporting Actress — Octavia Spencer
Best Original Screenplay
Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing
Best Production Design
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Visual Effects
The Shape of Water runs through at this Thursday at The Broad for those big screen purists and is certainly a candidate for download or streaming when available this year.