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The Shape of Water (2017) - Movie Review

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The Shape of Water - Movie Review

5 stars

There is but one artist who could create a passionately unsettling love story between a mute woman and a freakishly real-looking merman and make it feel so entirely personal that it practically drips with relatable emotion.  One artist.  And he is the mighty Guillermo del Toro.  The monster maestro has directed and produced many a fine tale as his dominance in the fantasy and horror genre steadily rises.  His latest, The Shape of Water, is yet another monster-sized masterpiece of mood and silky atmosphere. 

From the wonder of Pan’s Labyrinth to the mysteries housed within MimicHellboyCrimson Peak and Pacific Rim, writer/director/producer Guillermo del Toro simply does NOT disappoint when it comes to creating something unique and, for lack of a better word, memorable.  The territory of The Shape of Water might sound familiar to some creature feature enthusiasts out there in matinee-land but, in his capable hands, the very idea of it all becomes something so otherworldly and beautiful that we can’t help but gaze at the splendor of it all. 

The Shape of Water, featuring yet another charming nonhuman performance from Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in the Hellboy series and the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth), is a certifiably NEW classic that adds to charm and grace of del Toro’s gifted knack for storytelling.  The evocative film is exciting, sleek, and its romance will haunt you for days on end.  It might even leave you scarred. 

The Shape of Water is also going to be a serious contender for one of the year’s BEST movies.  Mark my words. 

The water-soaked magnificence contained within this tight behemoth is impressive and startling and, because it is del Toro, the message is filled with so many brilliant truths about the human condition that it renders me with a condition that is not unlike our main female protagonist’s: mute and filled with constant reverence for what del Toro has accomplished.  (And, yes, Virginia, WE are the true monsters.)

From the cool and haunting score from composer Alexandre Desplat – who uses whistles, accordions, fender pianos, and flutes to create a lush and underground love theme for this cold war nourish thriller – to the striking movement and visual depth of Danish cinematographer (and frequent del Toro collaborator) Dan Laustsen’s lens, this adult fairy tale absolutely comes to life in a charming and erotic way that holds your attention in a particular manner.  It is an allegorical film, to be sure, that is firmly established in the 1950s and in del Toro’s matinee-themed mind.  And it is a whopper of a fish tale.

Written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water is about a mute cleaning lady’s romance with a South American creature from the sea.  Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), working as a night shift janitor at a Baltimore-based research facility, falls in love with their new “asset”, a merman (Jones) who glows when touched.  Guarded by the cruel Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon in another awesome performance), Esposito sneaks visits in to her new beau and, slowly, over the sharing of hardboiled eggs, the two become fast friends.  Soon, she is planning The Asset’s escape from the confines of the research center.

Elisa’s plan to free the creature is aided by key performances from her neighbor and resident artist Giles (Richard Jenkins) and her co-worker friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer).  Together, their performances solidify the characterization of this love story within a “true” world as the one created by Elisa and the Merman, especially after they make love for the first time, drifts more and more toward the edge of the mythological abyss. 

With harsh truths and even scarier risks, del Toro creates something remarkable with the textures of The Shape of Water.  Sure, it is a modern fairy tale for adults but, buried within all that fantasy, is a surfaced tale about deception, spies, and the certainty that we all should bare witness to in this cruel, cruel world: sometimes a happy ending is a must.

Here there be Monsters! 

The Shape of Water - Movie Review

 MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.
Runtime: 123 mins
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon
Genre: Adventure | Fantasy
Tagline: Based on an idea by Daniel Kraus And Guillermo del Toro.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I don't want an intricate, beautiful thing destroyed!"
Theatrical Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Official Site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/theshapeofwater/
Release Date: December 1, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: An other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.

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The Shape of Water - Movie Review

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