The Shape of Water – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

The Shape of Water -3.5/5 – Originality is hard to find in films today.  With over a century of film history, everything you watch has a connection to some technique from the past.  When an original concept does occur, it gives the audience a journey worth remembering for ages.  The Shape of Water is a unique imaginary tale brought to us by director Guillermo Del Toro.  With a mixture of basic love concept, fairy tale themes and his original vision, you have a film that is mesmerizing on many different levels.  Even when some convenient plot points are used, The Shape of Water will have you escaping into a dark world that gives you the true meaning of love.

Premise: In a government facility, a cleaning lady and an imprisoned creature fall in love.

In the lead role of Elisa Esposito is Sally Hawkins.  Hawkins completely steals the show.  By combining fairy tale archetypes with heroine tropes, you get a layered individual who is witty, compassionate, endearing and strong.  That dynamic of combining different archetypes allows the audience to see Elisa through multiple lenses.  The combination is heightened by deep human distinctions, subtle mannerisms and emotional physical interactions.  Hawkins creates a person that represents an icon for realistic love through the imaginary.  By grounding the unreal, you are able to believe that in her affection for the creature.  Hawkins gives a performance that is worthy of an award nomination.  Some of the notables in the secondary roles are:

Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland

Richard Jenkins as Giles

Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller

Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetier

These four do a good job in fleshing out the world.  In them, you see a reflection of realism against fantastical elements.  Even though they go ‘over-the-top’ with some fairy tale tropes, they are able to add believability to their one-dimensional characters.  One of the interesting parts of the film is the imprisoned creature.  Even if it is only seen sparingly throughout the film, you understand his confusion and angst with human interaction.  His aptitude of learning, living and trying to survive compliments Sally Hawkins’s Elisa.  Their relationship develops through obvious methods, but it becomes a wholesome connection of real love.

The direction plays off the basic concept of a fairy tale.  Putting in place the ‘star crossed’ lover theme, you get a general linear plot of how opposites attract and lead into an ‘ever after’ like ending.  Unlike common fairy tales, Del Toro twists family friendly themes into a darken setting that provides an arena where realism clashes with traditional fantasy.  By blurring tropes and archetypes, you are drawn to this world through subtle buildup, slow character development and convenient plotting.  There is a lot of ‘suspension of disbelief’ created in the first act.  With a lot of unique rules to how the characters interact, you will either accept what is happening throughout the story or not.  As these rules of the unknown force the plot to unfold in certain ways, the characters will keep you glued to the screen.  You are introduced to this world where Elisa is a cleaning lady who works at a government facility.  This facility has a lot of confidential material.  One of the things that is clouded in mystery is a room that Elisa is assigned too that houses an unknown creature in a water jail.  From this point, the story focuses on the relationship between Elisa and the creature.  The theme of ‘star crossed lovers’ goes into full effect.  What could have been odd turns into a breaking of society clichés.  Having current social concepts applied through a fairy tale lens breeds a sense of originality that evolves the relationship through uncommon methods.  That rawness comes in how the purity of their interactions questions the status quo.  Complimenting their love story is the involvement of rivaling government spy agencies.  Being an abstraction of real-life scenarios, this reveals the purpose for certain characters.  As Elisa is left to her own vices, she believes she has to save the creature.   The ‘heroine’ mantra brings in another element that breaks away from predictable fairy tale lore, leading into a second act that tackles the ‘great escape’ concept.  With heighten awareness of what is at stake, all the characters are left to unknown circumstances.  The darkly tone breads an atmosphere of peril.  Once you reach the final act, you’re left with a wonderance of the world.  As all the characters, relationships and storylines come together, the blending of fairy tale tropes, darkly tones and realistic settings breads a climax that is open to interpretation.  That sense of ambiguity adds an allure of what truly happens with the Elisa and the creature.  The epilogue ends with a voice over that leaves the audience to ponder what ‘Happily Ever After’ really means.

The cinematography is a cluster of odd character designs, era representation and moody atmosphere.  With Del Toro at the helm, you get a complexion that smears oddities that make you believe the dark side of fairy tales.  At the same time, he grounds the concepts to a realistic city (Baltimore).  You get a visual appeal that bridges the unbelievable with reality.  In that, you grasp weird dynamics that make you feel, breath and live the emotions of the characters.  The score is non-existent, not having a real aspect to the overall enjoyment of the story.

The Shape of Water is an original film that takes common fairy tale settings and flips it on its height.  With some great characters and unlikely scenarios, you will find enjoyment in the dark concept.  If you’re a fan of Del Toro and original storylines, this is one for you.  It is worth seeing at the theaters.

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