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‘The Shape Of Water’, beautifully different

Published:Saturday | February 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins (left) and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer in ‘The Shape of Water’.

If I told you about the best film of last year, what would I say? Certainly not that it's The Shape of Water. No, instead, what I will say is that The Shape of Water is a movie that is unlike any other, which is par for the course with director Guillermo Del Toro. It's set in the early 1960s and follows the strange love story of a woman and a man. Only, the woman is a human and the man is covered head to toe in scales.

If that description is enough to scare you off, then you have no business seeing The Shape of Water. It is definitely a film that explores the unconventional, to say the least. With a story so submerged in fantasy, you'd think the film would be more of a fairy tale. In fact, while The Shape of Water can feel very surreal at times, I was surprised at just how gritty the film was.

The first half of the film shows this the most. You spend ample amount of time watching Sally Hawkins' character, Eliza Esposito, silently go about her day as a cleaning lady at the facility where she finds her finned lover. Even when taking a ride home on the bus, The Shape of Water feels like a painting come to life. You get a real sense of what this world is, and more importantly, who the people in it are.




Eliza is a mute, communicating mostly by sign language with her roommate, played by Richard Jenkins, and her coworker, played by Octavia Spencer. Both brought a sense of humanity to this movie, as their relatable characters grounded an otherwise unbelievable tale. It's a pity then that the film doesn't succeed at this on all accounts, particularly as it relates to Michael Shannon's character, a villain too obvious for a Disney movie.

The Shape of Water is a movie that takes its time to tell its story. Perhaps a little too much time in parts. While some might find the film's pairing unnerving, underneath the surface, there is something entirely relatable to it. Many people feel like outsiders in their lives, and strive to find a person to connect with. While I didn't always connect with The Shape of Water, I commend it for daring to be different. It plays with an old type of story and creates something that is entirely its own.