The Shape of Water Review


The Shape of Water is a story about a fish man and a mute girl falling in love at a government facility. Michael Shannon gets mad about this and decides to put an end to it. There’s also some Russians, a closeted guy, some really weird moments involving a half-severed finger, Octavia Spencer being a joy to watch, Doug Jones being a great fish man, you know, typical Guillermo del Toro stuff.

OK, there’s obviously a lot to talk about. The first thing you should know is that this movie is good. Really good. Great. Fantastic. One of the best of 2017, easy. This movie does a great job of easing you into this oddball concept, and not making it feel weird when things progress. You feel like Doug Jones’ fish man is more man than fish, despite his animal nature. This is due to the stunning special effects and an even more stunning performance by Jones, who always gets criminally overlooked in every project he does. He is so good at acting inhuman that I think people take him for granted when considering performances. The thought process probably goes something like “oh, of course Doug Jones is gonna be great. I don’t feel like I even need to mention him.” Not me. I would never forget you, Doug. There’s only one person who I thought did a better job, and that would be the star of the show. Sally Hawkins is indescribable. It takes a truly skilled actor to pull off a mute role (an even better one to do that and convincingly fall in love with a fish man), and Hawkins proves herself to be more than capable of this. She can’t speak, but Hawkins makes it seem like she’s been mute her whole life with every deliberate facial change, body movement, and shift in posture. She’s far more than incredible.

Octavia Spencer kind of plays herself, but this isn’t a bad thing. I keep seeing her cast in roles where it feels like the part was written specifically for her, so as long as she keeps being great in this type of character, I’ll be OK. Based on the previews, it looked like Michael Shannon was gonna be an intimidating villain, and I was pleased to find that he is much more than just that. Something writers tend to do when writing their villain is to leave him at just some scary guy, or something to that effect. While this isn’t always bad, it usually leaves us with someone who works as an antagonist, but not a character. They tend to be flat (Darren Cross from Ant-Man), uninteresting (Malekith from Thor 2), or simply boring (Rodan from Guardians of the Galaxy – Marvel has a bit of a villain problem). Michael Shannon is none of these things. His character is given as much care as Hawkins’, almost as if he were another main character. He feels empty in his marriage, his work, he’s in desperate need to air out some issues, and this fish-man got here at just the wrong time. Shannon knew there was a delicate balance needed to play this character without seeming pathetic, and I was gonna make a joke about how he’s got good balance, or can walk on a tightrope really easily, but then I realized someone would request that my ability to write be taken away, so I decided to not do that.

Something I really wanna highlight is how beautiful this movie is. It’s not just the cinematography, the use of color, the effects, or the soundtrack, it’s how well all of these are used together. This particular kind of synergy between these three elements is typical for a GDT film, however I believe this is the best example of just how good he is at this. The way the shots are paced, the way the effects so convincingly blend with the film, the way both of these compliment the sets and costumes (oh my lord Jesus my savior, the sets and costumes were amazing), the way the romance and the plot unfold in tandem with each other, the way the music keeps everything on just the right tone, everything about this movie is beautiful. I don’t know the best way to describe just how beautiful this entire thing is. It is easily the second most beautiful movie of 2017 (first is Blade Runner 2049, but if you read my review of that, you shouldn’t be surprised).

A couple things in terms of negatives: The ending could be seen as kind of cheesy, but I didn’t mind it all that much. The only reason I list it as a negative is because of the steps taken to get to this ending, which (while it was a great reveal) kind of came flat out of nowhere. Well, I’d be lying if I said that. There’s a couple things that hint at this reveal, but I felt like it could have been done a little better.

And that’s about it in terms of negatives. There might be more, but they obviously didn’t stick out enough to have an impact on my enjoyment of the film. I couldn’t get enough of this movie. I didn’t want it to end because I wanted more of this beautifully executed love story. Also because of the fish man. Love the fish man.


Up next: A movie I really didn’t think was gonna be made and actually dreaded watching up to a certain point. Should be fun.

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