Archive: The Shape of Water (2017) A Review

Winner of four Academy Awards including Best Picture, I missed this one when it first came out, but have always wanted to see it for myself, have heard very mixed things.

Certificate: 15

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Screenwriter: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon

Genre: Adventure, Drama

Runtime: 123 Minutes

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

You can always rely on Del Toro to tell you a story that is so mind bendingly strange that it couldn’t possibly be written by anyone else.  It is a very simple plot at it’s heart, but is told well and is just bizarre enough to keep the simple premise from being boring.

This is an otherworldly fable 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. – Fox Searchlight Pictures

A touching kind of love story with a twist, where nether of our two main characters ever utter a word and still all the thrill and emotions of the story are delivered perfectly.  Sally Hawkins was nominated for a bunch of awards for her performance here, but narrowly missed out on them.  Shocking considering her amazing performance here.  Playing Eliza, who is completely mute, and having to portray a character full of such emotion, it was quite a feat to achieve with out the help of dialogue.

The story is a wacky one, as we have come to expect from Del Toro, but you just have to suspend your belief for the space of two hours and engage yourself in a kind of messed up beauty and the beast type narrative.  It is a very slow build to the story, and just when you think it should be over, it carries on for a little longer.  I think the editing could have been tighter and therefore the story about half an hour shorter, but none of it was exactly boring.  Just parts were slower than others.  The Cold War subplot could have been ditched, and the film wouldn’t have lost anything, it just served as a means to explain why there were secret science experiments going on in the first place.   The actual love story between Eliza and the creature is definitely odd and a little creepy, but other than a few od scenes, this isn’t really thrown in the viewers face, it’s just an uncomfortable thing that is going on in the background.

I feel the need to write at least an obligatory few lines about the weird musical number that we are treated to towards the end of the film, which is the only time Sally Hawkins kind of speaks.  It’s a dream like sequence so it isn’t really happening and seems so crazy out of place in the film that I don’t really know what it was doing there.  OK, obligatory few lines over.

The end of the film devolves into chaos and violence incredibly quick, leaving it with a much different tone then it has in the beginning.  Although parts of the conclusion where unavoidable I suppose, the final few shots took the film to a completely new level of suspension of belief, and while any other kind of ending may have been unsatisfying, it would have been a lot more tonally consistent if the film would have ended the second they hit the water, and left it a bit more ambiguous.

A lot better than I was expecting but felt long in some places and a little too odd for me n in others.  Those who are a fan of stranger cinema will love it though.

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