Release Date: December 8, 2017
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones, David Hewlett, Nick Searcy, Stewart Arnott, Nigel Bennett, Lauren Lee Smith, Martin Roach, Allegra Fulton, John Kapelos, Morgan Kelly, Marvin Kaye, Dru Viergever, Wendy Lyon, Cody Ray Thompson, Diego Fuentes, Madison Ferguson, Jayden Greig, Karen Glave, Danny Waugh, Dan Lett, Deney Forrest, Brandon McKnight Clyde Whitham, Jonelle Gunderson, Cameron Laurie, Evgeny Akimov, Sergey Nikonov, Vanessa Qude-Reimerink
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 123 minutes
Production Company: Bull Productions, Double Dare You (DDY), Fox Searchlight Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
Language: English, America Sign Language, Russian
Country: Canada, USA
Budget: $19,400,000 (estimated)
While some consider the writer and director Guillermo del Toro (Blade II, Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim) a master storyteller, I’m still on the fence to give him that title. Overall; while I enjoy his films, I still feel he’s a bit overrated, being let down by a few of his releases. That’s not the case with his latest film The Shape of Water. This film is the prime example of taking a story that’s quite familiar to the public, and being able to put your own spin on it to make something truly remarkable.
That’s exactly what del Toro did here. The story centers around a research facility in the 1960’s where two cleaning ladies being Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), and Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) are prominent figures. Secret scientists, and high members of the government are doing research on an aquatic creature, and Elisa and Zelda are in the middle of it. The antagonist of the film is Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), and like most men in power, he wants to exploit the creature, and goes the wrong direction trying to learn about the specimen which is the opposite direction of common sense. During all this, Elisa creates a strong bond with the creature, and the story continues on from this point. There’s nothing new about this tale, but Del Toro puts a spin on things that makes it worth your wild.
Behind the scenes, the director stated that when writing this film, he had all the actors’ casts in mind. That’s most likely why all performances stood out so well as a true selling point and why it’s so stellar. Richard is a man that can’t get enough. He has a great job, two loving kids, and a wife that bends to his every command without him even asking, but his blood still boils at the thought of not being in control. Sally Hawkins performance stood out the most with her character being a mute. With only a few lines of dialogue in a dream sequence, she’s still able to emote a grand performance through facial expressions, sign language, and body mannerisms that sure do bring the point home. Most of the dialogue goes to Zelda which is special because in the 60’s, Black Americans didn’t get too much of a chance to speak their minds.
The true standout of the film is the directing itself by del Toro. The score and soundtrack that he used is the life blood within the film. Not only is it moving to your soul, but he finds visual cues through rain water on windows, and times and other seamless elements that makes it all that much more meaningful. This film is a gem being a true expression of feelings that someone may go through. It is a true art form within itself that can’t be told any other way. Within the time period it takes place, it gives those who normally wouldn’t have a voice, all the room to promote themselves in ways that wasn’t known before. It’s a contrast that has never been heard of before that makes it to stand out so well on the highest mountain top. It’s a film about finding true happiness no matter how obscure or abominable it may seem to the rest of the world, which is so significant because in the end, it doesn’t matter. So, letting go and grabbing life by the horns is one of the main forces that makes it shine so bright.
While some of the decisions made between certain characters may be put off for some, I can still respect the decisions that were made. Who am I to dictate what someone needs to do or not do to find their true calling or place in life, and that’s what Elisa’s character did in the film. On so many levels, the film is poetic, and surpasses that description in words that I can’t even describe, and it delivers on the true form of beauty that you can’t help but to sit there and soak it all in.