The Shape of Water (2017) Review


Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: Guillermo del Toro

Actors: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon


Another big film this year is of course The Shape of Water. An interesting film and marks a big point in the career of Guillermo del Toro. Finally after years and years of film making, it seems like he will finally be able to snag some Oscars this year. Although I feel like other people definitely deserve it more (PTA), but still, it seems like he will get it. As with most films I watch, I did not know anything about The Shape of Water before seeing it. Which was hard to do, especially with all the hype. Nevertheless, I watched the film on Wednesday in theaters which really helped. After the first 10 minutes of the film I knew what I was getting into, and sort of managed to predict where it was going instantly. Although predictable, The Shape of Water still manages to have something meaningful. Whether or not you connect with that something is another story. 

Now when it comes to this film, for me, the only thing worth while is the story. Nothing else about this film screams unique. The acting is good at best, the cinematography is acceptable, and the music is just fine as well. The only thing carrying this film is its story. The story itself is structured well. Every character has his or her place and they fit in nicely within this story. For me the characters are what help the film, since they are crafted well. Elisa of course is mute and feels like she is less than "normal people". So the fish thing sees past this, and she feeds off of that aspect in feeling normal, that she is not incomplete. It doesn't take much to deduce this since it was literally told to the audience straight out, which I don't really enjoy when films ham-fist things we ought to infer on our own. Another good character is Richard Strickland played by Michael Shannon. Strickland basically represents the typical American man at the time. The glimpse we got of his household really pushes this fact, with a wife and two kids, having traditional breakfast every morning and all that. Also, when he was having intercourse with his wife and he tries to get her to stop talking, this shows us how he always wishes to be in power, and in a dominant position. All of this adds to his character. These aspects personally felt very forced to me, but overall they did help build up these characters and gave them much more depth.

In terms of the actual plot, del Toro managed to tie everything up in a neat bow. Even though there were many characters and a couple of plot lines moving at once, he managed to leave the viewer satisfied with every characters end. However, this to me was both a positive and a negative. I liked that he did not have any big plot holes and managed to really bring the story together in a way that wasn't confusing. However, by having all of these characters, it felt like he compromised a bit on the actual love relationship of Elisa and the fish guy. That's why I feel like I lost interest in this film very quickly. While watching, I admit, it was an interesting experience. But as time moved on, I think about this film less and less. And whenever I come around to thinking about it, it is always in a "well that was okay I guess" type of thought. I just want to touch up on one more thing about the plot, which is the ending. Obviously, del Toro left the film with an open ending, and he gave us the ending that Giles believes happened. So he left it up to the viewer to think of the fate of Elisa and fish man. Whether they continued living together or she just died is based on how you view the film. 

I don't really have much else to say about this film. I thought the film on all fronts other than the story was just average or a bit above average at most. I obviously don't think that this film should have won Best Picture, and of course don't think that del Toro deserved Best Director, but hey, to each his own. Now this is not me saying that The Shape of Water is a bad film, but it just isn't for me personally. I will end this review with something I haven't really done before, which is a recommendation. If you enjoyed this film, or liked the concept of an unconventional love story then I will recommend to you a film that did this concept a hundred times better in my opinion. Watch a Korean film called Oasis (2002), directed by Lee Chang Dong. Then you will see how effective a film can be when it comes to unconventional love.