Review: The Shape of Water (2017)

Ever wondered what the government could be experimenting on in an underground, oceanographic lab? You might just fall in love with it.

Guillermo del Toro’s nautical hit, The Shape of Water, follows a mute woman, Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, who has a mysterious set of scars on her neck. When she meets an equally mysterious merman-like creature, her scars reveal that she’s more than meets the eye.

The Review

Sally Hawkins delivers an incredible performance as a mute woman. You can feel her intensity in how she signs. Every facial expression was powerful and well-intended. Hawkins proves that you don’t need lines to be a memorable hero. She referred to the role as, “the greatest gift.”

This fantastical drama has a lot of heart; it’s so far my favorite film of 2018.

(I was a little late to the party.)

This film is loaded to the brim with wacky and unique characters. Elisa’s neighbor, Giles, played by Richard Jenkins, is an openly gay artist and hopeless romantic. When speaking to the merman, he delivers a heart-wrenching line:

I look in the mirror and the only thing I recognize are these eyes. In this old man’s face. You know sometimes I think I was either born too early or too late for my life.

There’s also Elisa’s co-worker, Zelda, played by the incredible Octavia Spencer. She’s a spunky cleaning lady who’s always got a mouthful to say – and an attitude to back it up. There are countless quotable lines from Zelda. Here’s one to give you a clue:

Short people are mean. I never met a short man that stays nice all the way through. No sir. Mean little backstabbers, all of ’em. Maybe it’s the air down there. Not enough oxygen or somethin’.

Doug Jones, Hollywood’s go-to for monster men, gives a wonderful performance as the merman. It’s a breath of fresh air to see more practical effects than CG work. Jones pulls it off exceptionally as a believable, aquatic creature.

His movement can be quick and fierce – sometimes, downright scary. He can also be slow and calm – tender, even.

The boiled eggs made quite a few appearances as this film’s “MacGuffin.” Not only are they shown repetitively boiling in water, they become a spot-on representation of Elisa’s journey.

The cinematography and set design reminded me so much of the video game, Bioshock, by 2K Games, and its aesthetics. The theme fits perfectly with this dark, watery story.

There is at least one negative point to add about this film. In the scene where Elisa comes clean about her affair with the merman, Zelda seems abnormally okay with it. There’s no conflict. She just accepts the relationship right off the bat and goes on to crack a joke.

Final Thoughts

A major focus of this review was on the characters. I did this for good reason. Characters are the soul of your narrative. If you create a memorable and lovable character, people will pay to see them in anything.

I would certainly love to see Elisa, Zelda, and Giles go on more adventures.

The Shape of Water rightfully earns a solid score of:

9 Shots of Fandom Espresso

Out of 10

Like what you read? Click the image below to buy The Shape of Water from Amazon!

Quick Facts (From IMDB)

The Shape of Water

Rating: R

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: Vanessa Taylor

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

Running Time: 2h 3m

Genre: Adventure/Drama/Fantasy


Image Credit: Fox Searchlight, Twentieth Century Fox – Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in the film THE SHAPE OF WATER. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved –

Author: Christopher Fain

Author, blogger, content writer, and screenwriter based in Orlando, Florida. He is earning a B.F.A. in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. Twitter: @chrisjf93

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