• The Shape of Water (2017) - A fairy tale for adults - 8/10 (31/01/18)

    The Shape of Water (2017)

    Here comes the only minor spoiler of my review: Octavia Spencer doesn't talk about chicken in this movie. This is great. Now, let's move on.

    Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water is a modern fairy tale that takes place during the sixties. It tells the story of a mute janitor called Elisa who has good friends in gay artist and neighbor Giles and her black work colleague Zelda but she still feels lonesome because she doesn't have a man in her life. She works at a secret government laboratory and witnesses how a mysterious humanoid amphibian arrives there for scientific purposes. Inexplicably intrigued by the tormented and tortured creature, Elisa forms a close bond with the creature who turns out to be intelligent. However, Colonel Strickland, who has captured the mysterious creature in South America, starts to despise it after it fought its tormentor, biting off two of his fingers. When the government laboratory comes to the conclusion that the creature is useless, they plan to kill it. Before Colonel Strickland can triumphantly execute the order, Elisa decides to save the creature with the help of Giles and Zelda, risking their lives. Soon, three different parties, Elisa and her friends, a group of Soviet secret agents and American military personnel face one another because they all have different plans for the humanoid amphibian.

    The Shape of Water has several intriguing elements. The storytelling is well-paced, finding the right balance between incorporating fantastic elements and bringing back to life the Cold War in the sixties, showing the flaws and strengths of American society back then. The movie deals with homophobia and segregation, without being too moralizing. The settings are carefully chosen, contrasting shiny restaurants, poor apartments and cold bunkers. The visual special effects are stunning, especially all scenes involving water and the humanoid amphibian. The dream-like opening sequence grabs your attention right from the start and is a highlight. The characters are intriguing enough to care about them, as both the diversified cast of protagonists convinces as well as the reckless antagonists. The acting performances go hand in hand with the intriguing characters and Sally Hawkins is particularly convincing as unusual lead actress with a mysterious past. The movie makes many clever references to other films and forms of art because the main character and her neighbor are interested in film and music and living right above an old movie theater. This gives the film an intellectual touch and invites viewers to discover the culture of the fifties and sixties.

    Obviously, the story itself isn't particularly creative, reminding me of a mixture of Beauty and the Beast and Avatar. Many elements of the movie are quite predictable and even foreshadowed in the very first scene of the film. If you plan on watching this fairy tale with your young children, you should rather not because right after the opening sequence, we see the lead actress fully undressed, taking a bath and masturbating. Not that this is any problem since it tells us about both the purity and loneliness of the main character, but it isn't something young children should see. The Shape of Water is a fairy tale for intellectual adults with all its colorful references.

    The Shape of Water is a colorful, creative and entertaining fairy tale. It deserves most of the praise it gets, even though a whopping thirteen Academy Awards nominations are quite a stretch. Enjoy this beautiful film at your local movie theater.

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