Film Review – The Shape of Water (2017): Eddie’s Take

Title: The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy)

Cast: Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg

Plot: In America of the 1950’s, mute cleaning lady Elisa Esposito (Hawkins) finds herself befriending a fish like creature (Jones) which leads to Elisa hatching a plan to break her new friend out of the top secret government facility she works at.

“If I told you about her, what would I say? I wonder”

Review by Eddie on 31/01/2018

Beautiful to look at and constructed with an old school filmmaking sensibility that moulds together well with Guillermo Del Toro’s particular directional style and off-beat dark humour, the much acclaimed The Shape of Water is a good film but it’s also not the so-called great film that’s been lavished with an equal record 13 Academy Award nominations.

It’s not hard to pinpoint where Water excels and where its caught a little short, as surprisingly what lets Del Toro’s visually captivating and sometimes fantastical treat down, is the very romance and relationship at the heart of this somewhat stereotypical monster infused romance.

Built around Sally Hawkins mute, lonely and bathtime loving cleaning lady Elisa Esposito, who spends her night’s listening to Octavia Spencer’s The Help co-worker Zelda, only to find  herself inraptured with a new fishy specimen at her work, Water neither spends enough time building the star crossed friendship/romance that builds between Elisa and Doug Jone’s fishman or spends enough time with the two central figures as a whole as Del Toro instead focuses a lot of his attention’s on side plots and distractions that work sometimes and plod at other times.

With Del Toro choosing to fill his pre-Cold War set tale with nasty government baddies in the lead  form of the hamming it up evil Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins repressed artist/pie lover and kindly neighbour Giles and Michael Stuhlbarg’s Russian spy with a conscience Dr. Robert Hoffstetler, the heart of Water gets muddled at times and while clearly an elergy for race, the minorities and acceptance, this Beauty and the Beast with added H20 could’ve benefited from a greater focus and a more prominent beating heart.

Disappointments aside, the craft of Del Toro’s best project in year’s is top notch.

Following on from the gothically handsome yet genuinely bad Crimson Peak, Water is a return to form for the Mexian auteur in a production and construction sense with Dan Laustsen’s cinematography capturing the film brilliantly, Paul D. Austerberry production design encapsulating the period with only a handful of sets, while Alexandre Desplat’s award winning score is another fine piece of work for the composser.

The film also features some committed and noteworthy turns with Hawkins in particular leading from the front and the always solid Stuhlbarg, who has had a great few years in front of the camera.

Other Oscar nominated turns from Jenkins and Spencer seem more like the Academy getting a little carried away, with both performers delivering autopilot like turns, while Shannon needs to move very carefully in the coming months to make sure these off-kilter wide-eyed maniac’s his made his built his career on don’t completely pigeonhole him into a one dimensional character actor for hire.

Final Say –

There have been many that have and will continue to fall under The Shape of Water’s spell but this Oscar frontrunner leaves a lot to be desired emotionally from it’s romantic core, even if craft wise, this is Del Toro at the peak of his filmmaking powers.

3 1/2 house cat’s out of 5

12 responses to “Film Review – The Shape of Water (2017): Eddie’s Take

  1. I haven’t seen this yet but – unlike you – I really like “Crimson Peak”. Maybe that’s just me and the friends I saw it with, but we thought it was gorgeous to look at and fascinating.

    • Oh yeh great to look at but narratively Peak was for me extremely badly done and totally uninteresting. One thing you always get with a Del Toro film is beautiful sets and production design.

      • I liked the narrative and the acting. That might just be me, three people named Del Toro and the two people I saw it with. But I thought the ideas were interesting and well-described. (I accept this may be me, in a club, by myself)

    • Glad you liked it so! While I enjoyed it I just couldn’t buy totally into it and its not a film I would be revisiting many times again I wouldn’t of thought.
      The craft was faultless but for me emotionally it left a lot to be desired.

  2. Nice review. Nut I am going to wait the 21st of February when he comes out. Should be interesting.

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