It’s the 1960s. Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works night shifts as a cleaner at a secret government facility. She cannot speak because of a childhood trauma, but it does not stop her from having friends: another cleaner – chatty Octavia (Zelda Fuller) and a gay neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins). When a strange sea creature enters the facility and is held captive, Elisa can relate to his situation – she is as much of an outsider and a sort of a prisoner in her own skin. When the amphibious man is about to be exectuted Elisa has no other choice but to plan a daring escape. It is time for both of them to break free. But what is the price they’ll have to pay?
I can say many wonderful things about the film – the Alexander Desplat score is a marvel, the acting of everyone involved is top notch (Zelda Fuller is a scene stealer) and the cinematography is breathtaking. But however amazing the visuals of THE SHAPE OF WATER are, underneath it all is a very simple story. Don’t get me wrong, this is a visually inventive, well acted and engaging film, but did I find the plot predictable? Yes, oh yes. In particular, it strikes as being generic to those who know Del Toro films well. The love between the two outcasts, the psychotic villain and a sea creature – it’s like the cast of HELLBOY decided to participate in a much smaller project.
THE SHAPE OF WATER is an unapologetically violent (Del Toro has a definite fascination with disturbing facial wounds) and at the same time is full of weird erotics that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. It is also a relatively compact movie with only a few locations, and has a theatrical vibe to it.
THE SHAPE OF WATER has many ingredients (including musical). The creature’s design, that took 9 months to develop is majestic, but for me personally is heavily inspired by the design of E.T. (just like ET’s, his body lights up from inside upon touching). The story itself is also reminiscent of the Spielberg classic movie. Many of the aspects of the plot seem improbable or illogical even for a fantasy film and the horrible Russian accent of the Soviet spies seriously affected my enjoyment of the movie (details like this, in my opinion, should be done right or not at all. There was no particular reason for these characters speaking Russian in the first place.
To sum it up, THE SHAPE OF WATER intrigued me, engaged me and frustrated me all at once. But I must stop complaining. Maybe this is what a good director should be getting out of the viewer?