‘The Shape of Water’ is visual storytelling at its finest

I FINALLY got to see The Shape of Water. Anyone who regularly talks to me knows that I’ve been waiting for this movie to come close since early December. It’s a thriller mixed with romance and science fiction, and surprisingly it works on all three levels. Oh, and it stars a fish man reminiscent of 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon that falls in love with a human woman.

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The Shape of Water is the latest film from monster loving director Guillermo Del Toro. It tells the tale of a mute nighttime janitor (Sally Hawkins) who works in a top secret facility in Baltimore during the early 1960s. When she happens to clean the room containing a top secret creature known only as The Asset, she and her group of ragtag, outsider friends come together to save the beast from the wrath of his malicious overlords. The story becomes more complicated when Hawkins’ character Elisa falls for the creature herself.

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A tagline in this film’s trailer says, “If I told you about her, the princess without voice, what would I say?” I would say that she’s phenomenal. Sally Hawkins’ Elisa is mute and without uttering a single word, delivers one of the best performances of the year. She’s confident, charming, and reserved all at once and her strong connection with the supporting cast is exactly what you want to see in a film like this. She should be a frontrunner for Best Actress, but I think that award is almost locked up by Frances McDormand.

Guillermo Del Toro is famous for the monsters in his movies and The Asset is no exception. Creature actor Doug Jones (no, not the new U.S. Senator from Alabama) wore an excellently crafted suit to play this role and the scenes of him swimming underwater are some of the best of the year.

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The score and cinematography go hand in hand. French composer Alexandre Desplat created a beautiful sound for Elisa and The Asset to beautifully glide through as the story plays out. I listened to the score before the movie, but after seeing how well it fits with the almost all teal color palette, it’s even better. I’m pretty sure Del Toro found every single shade of teal/green possible for his best film to date.

At its core, this film is about love. Both of the leads remain silent for the entire film (save for one dream sequence), and the movie is better for it. It’s a love story at its core and the wordless display of love gives us the opportunity as viewers to see what a relationship can be even if you can’t verbally express how you feel. It’s one of the best made films of the year. I can’t wait to see it again.

(I own no photos)