There are a few things I like about The Shape of Water, one of which is the story. It’s a heartwarming tale about a woman and a fish-man who fall in love, which was all wonderfully captured by Guillermo Del Toro.
Guillermo Del Toro has made some fantastic films in his career, that all look visually stunning. But much like Ridley Scott, there were a few missteps in his career. Those missteps were, while not very good, visually still pleasing. And of course, this film too is a visual masterpiece. The thought put into the colors used in this film is phenomenal; green represented the future and everything centered on progress, while still sticking with a conservative mindset, which contradicts itself. This is, because the color red, another prominent color in the film, stood for the unspoken future of love, progression and everything “good”. The fantastic lighting, reminiscent of how noir films out of the 60’s were shot, brought these colors really to life. Del Toro was originally planning on filming his movie in black and white and while the lighting really lends itself to being portrayed in black and white, I’m still glad that he chose to film in color, as this added quite a lot to the viewing experience.
The Shape of Water is probably one of the best shot films I’ve seen in quite some time and I wouldn’t be surprised if it would get an Oscar for best cinematography, but only if they snubbed Deakins again, who, in my opinion, is the most deserving of that prize. What made this film as visually pleasing as it is, were the fantastic sets. They were realistic, yet magical. They were crafted in a way to give of fairy tale atmosphere, yet they encapsulated that cold look of the cold war extremely well. They looked gorgeous and conveyed Del Toro’s color pallet beautifully. The incredible costumes, of course, helped with this as well, since they too created a grounded, yet magical feeling. Add a fantastic soundtrack, to the mix and you have yourself an aesthetically pleasing cold era fairy tale.
Another thing that I really liked about The Shape of Water was how well it handled its themes. The film deals with quite a range of topics, like discrimination and racism, and handles them with extreme care. It’s so surprising that, while the film’s set in the 60’s, these themes are still relevant today and I appreciate that Del Toro wanted to bring attention to that. The film gives a voice to the voiceless and places them in the spotlight – a place where they deserve to be – and I really dug that. I liked that they didn’t go the easy route with some characters as well, the one of Richard Jenkins, for example, who’s a homosexual musical lover. They had all the options laid out in front of them to make him a walking cliché, but instead, they gave him a layered character and one we could care about. Same goes for Octavia Spencer’s character and the one of Michael Stuhlbarg. They were both given a real character, rather than the stereotypes movies often like to depict.
The acting too was fucking incredible from everyone involved. Sally Hawkins was one of the standouts; she was truly phenomenal. She was able to convey her emotions so well, without any words, which was quite spectacular. She has one very powerful scene, in particular, that’ll stick with me for quite some time, where she was able to show everything she’s got. And let me tell you this: she’s got a lot to give. Octavia Spencer too was amazing. Spencer’s always able to make a secondary character more enjoyable to watch than any other actor would, and this time she was an absolute joy to watch. She was extremely charming and very funny in her role. But to me, Richard Jenkins really stole the show. His character was my personal favorite out of the bunch. He was sweet, kind and goodhearted, yet life constantly punched him in the gut. I felt sorry for him the whole way through, because of how emotionally suppressed he felt. He couldn’t express his true feelings and when he finally did, he was criticized for it. This made him give one of the best lines in the film, namely:
“Sometimes I think I was born too early or too late for my life”
Michael Shannon too was amazing in his role; he was menacing, scary and everything he had to be. Doug Jones, while drenched in make-up was quite good as well. The make-up and animatronics of his character were done really well, which makes wonder why the film didn’t get a nomination for makeup and hairstyling since both were done wonderfully. To add to the long list of well-developed characters, we also have Doctor Robert Hoffstetler, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, who gave a charismatic and sympathetic performance.
My only major complaint with The Shape of Water is that they could’ve spent more time developing the love between Elisa, Sally Hawkins’ character, and Amphibian Man, while they were still in the facility. Now we only had a tiny montage, which does the job, but doesn’t do it justice entirely. I’d been more invested into the story if they included some more scenes of her meeting him, or showing us how they got to know each other more so that the motivation of breaking him free was justified. But all in all that was my only complaint and personal preference.
In the end, The Shape of Water is well deserving of all the nominations it’s been getting. The directing was amazing, the cinematography gorgeous, the performances phenomenal, but I feel like we should’ve needed some more time developing the relationship between Eliza and Amphibian Man.