Unique film enchants
Over Winter Break, I met up with a few of my friends to watch a movie I knew pretty much nothing about. I’m talking, of course, about the new Guillermo Del Toro film, The Shape of Water. After seeing the trailer, I was only more confused; it seemed all over the place with no discernable storyline. However, upon finishing the film, I was left with a sense of awe, as it was a beautiful, though unorthodox, tale of adventure. As expected, this article contains spoilers, and I’d strongly recommend watching the movie before reading this.
The film takes place in 1960s-era America, when the women’s rights movement was just starting to kick off, and the US Armed Forces were heavily male-dominated. It also was the time frame of the anti-communist craze, where anyone suspected of being a Russian spy was taken away, never to be seen again. The Shape of Water addresses both issues in an indirect way. The story is set around Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaning lady working at a government laboratory. The audience follows her as she goes about her seemingly mundane life: she cooks eggs, drops off food for her neighbor, rides the bus to work, and cleans the lab. One day, however, her routine is shattered. A new specimen is brought to the lab—a humanoid fish-monster that Colonel Richard Strickland claims is some sort of Amazonian river god that he discovered. Strickland, in very stereotypical ’60s machismo, tortures the creature and receives orders to vivisect it in order to prevent Soviet spies from stealing it for themselves. Meanwhile, Elisa, who has grown attached to the creature, helps it escape. This is where the movie takes its biggest risk of all. The budding love story between Eliza and the river being is fully fleshed out, and somehow, becomes more than just a shock factor. It’s treated like nothing is out of the ordinary, like this is just a normal occurrence and everything is fine. I won’t spoil any more, because on the off-chance that you haven’t seen The Shape of Water yet, I hope you’re enticed enough to give it a try.
Besides the unusual storyline, the characters are among the most diverse group of people I’ve seen in a movie. Eliza, the mute cleaning lady, is complemented by the loud and unafraid-to-voice-her-opinion Zelda, another cleaning lady at the base. Eliza’s neighbor and best friend, Giles, is a starving artist struggling with his own closeted homosexuality and desire for companionship. Strickland is the perfect villain: he is both menacing and cold-hearted, but his back story is wonderfully fleshed out to the point where you can sympathize with him. The whole subplot with Russian spies is also done cleanly, creating a level of intrigue and then cleaning up all loose ends.
All in all, this was a wonderful movie. I enjoyed the unconventional storyline, and how every scene in The Shape of Water was a setup to the next one; I never felt like it was dull or stale. If nothing else convinces you, then I invite you to take a look at the Wikipedia article for this movie’s accolades. You’ll find it to be as long, if not longer, than the movie’s own Wikipedia page.