Review: ‘The Shape of Water’ Is a Magnificent Feast for the Eyes

Victoria Stuewe ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Movies Editor
There are few words that can adequately describe The Shape of Water. Unique. Imaginative. Beautiful. Captivating. Though these words do work well, none fully capture the essence of Guillermo del Toro’s newest film. Gorgeous art direction, fantastic casting, creative storytelling – all of these make The Shape of Water a force to be reckoned with and, quite possibly, one of the best of the year.
Though a simple and well-told story, the way del Toro wove the story into the masterpiece that it is is what makes the film remarkable. The film follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who works as a maid in a laboratory. She spends her relatively unremarkable days with her fellow maid and friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), at work and her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), at home. One day, however, the lab receives a mysterious “asset” (Doug Jones) from Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) that is being kept behind locked doors. Despite its secrecy, Elisa eventually discovers what this “asset” actually is: an amphibious, yet somewhat humanoid creature.

Michael Shannon and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
If there is anything to be said about The Shape of Water, it should be that it is extremely, utterly beautiful. Del Toro’s expert direction is on full display in amazing beauty during the entirety of the film. There is not one scene where the film feels lacking in either design or creativity, making it a spectacle to watch. The visuals alone are a treat, as it’s easy to tell how much care was put into each shot of the film.
The Shape of Water has a type of cohesion seldom seen in many other films today. From the first scene, every piece of the film, from the intriguing set design to the costumes to the glorious and playful score by Alexandre Desplat, works together in such a gorgeous and impeccable way that it’s a wonder how del Toro was able to make a film so enjoyable to watch. Though it does have its intense moments, watching never diverts from its imaginative story.
Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Another element to the film’s success comes in the form of Sally Hawkins. Hawkins is the absolute standout performer throughout the entire film. Though she never utters a word, her presence is undeniable and her personality shines amongst the rest. Captivating and immersive, Hawkins gives the film substance and originality. Deciding to make her a mute might be a bit peculiar, but it is that peculiarity that makes the film so special.
Del Toro’s vision is fully realized throughout the film and his distinct signature is present altogether. His touch of surrealism combined with his beautiful sense of style allows the film to go beyond a typical fantasy film and into a new fairy tale classic. Though apparently simple, the details are thoroughly complex and one can tell the amount of time put into the making of the film.
Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
Despite all of these well-deserved praises, if there is one thing to critique, it is the predictability of the film. Although definitely unique in its nature, the film still boils down to a plot seen in many others. This fact does not fully detract from the film as a whole, but it does showcase an idea seen a few too many times.
But is this a bad thing? Does this make The Shape of Water a disappointment?
Not in the slightest.
Doug Jones in The Shape of Water. Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.
In recent years, the so-called “Oscar-worthy” films seem to have a common thread: they must be difficult to watch. This is typically due to either its thematic material or due to the dense dialogue presented in the film or, frankly, due to both of these things. The Shape of Water, however, defies that standard. It proves that a film does not need to be a commentary on society in order to be deemed great. Though this film definitely does have a galore of metaphors and symbols to sort through, one does not need to identify these to enjoy the movie. The Shape of Water is entertainment in its purest form. The idea that a movie can be entertaining and profound and beautiful all at the same time is exemplified throughout the film.
Though few words can truly encapsulate the experience that is watching The Shape of Water, it is quite clear that del Toro created a film that was much needed this year; a film for one to fully and completely escape.
Overall Grade: A-
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