It’s hard to explain in a short video review (which is here) how this movie impacted me. Since 2011, my favorite movie was “War Horse.” It was a movie that told a story of courage, which I really needed at that time of seeing it. What makes “The Shape of Water” come neck and neck with Spielberg’s war epic? I’m going to break this down into a few categories, because I really could ramble about this movie all day. So, I’ll speak of the elements which impacted me the most-while going into the finer details as well.
Elisa: The main character, played by Sally Hawkins is a kind and honest character who has a vocal impairment. The reason why I fell in love with her portrayal is because it was awesome to see someone with a disability represented so well. Disability advocacy is such a big part of my life since I have mild autism and I have siblings who have cerebral palsy, while I have never met anyone to date who cannot speak, but I think it’s important to show people of all different disabilities in movies if it’s not ‘cheesy.’
I feel like all the other movies or fictional stories I’ve read about disability is the same old story. Trying to overcome and show the world who they are inside, a sappy story which we all know the ending of. No doubt a promising idea and can be done well, but it’s been done to death. In this movie, she’s not trying to prove anything, she’s a normal human with needs, wants, hopes and dreams.
The movie isn’t ‘about’ her disability, even though it’s a very important aspect of the movie. The plot tropes of disabilities are washed away in this movie, making way for new and exciting ideas. I’m so glad the filmmaker didn’t try to make us feel ‘sorry’ for her because she is mute, we feel sorry for her in other ways. She happens to have a disability, but we don’t need it milked to make the audience feel bad.
We already connect with her on an emotional level, we as the audience already accept that she cannot speak. Why make a movie of trying to ‘prove to the world she’s better?’ Again, we’ve seen that time and time again. Elisa is a great character, and we get to see her go through so much emotion and interesting plot twists. That to me is much more interesting.
Amphibian Man: I think the aspect of this movie that’s getting talked about the most is Doug Jones as the ‘creature’ as I call him, the IMDB however calls him ‘Amphibian Man.’ I will mention that the creature effects themselves are flawless, and the actor did an amazing job with the mannerisms of the creature, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I found him the most intriguing part of the entire movie, and I think others did as well. I think my love for his character goes all the way back to when I was younger, maybe in middle school when I first saw “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” I found him quite amazing to, and I remember re-watching that movie a lot and talking about it in school. I still to this day have a love for the gill-man. I remember watching all the behind the scenes, he remains my favorite of the classic movie monsters. Not to mention, I also love any type of non-human story. I love talking animal movies, I love movies like “District 9″, where one of the main characters has a totally different outlook on life because he / she isn’t our species.
Through the whole movie, I wondered what was going through his brain, and with the upcoming novel of the same name coming out, I can’t wait to read it the moment it is released and maybe get a few of my questions answered. I think he is also 90% of why I loved this movie. I’ll admit, if it wasn’t for him-I don’t think this movie would have had nearly the impact it did. His story brought be back to the classic monster movies I love. He is my favorite part of the movie hands down. I can’t get the creature out of my head. Hands down one of my favorite movie characters.
Zelda and Giles: I put these two characters together, since I have an overall message about these two. Octavia Spencer hit the ball out of the park with her role. She is such a talented actor. I think she had all the best dialogue, she said sort of what I was thinking-apart from the religious expletives, as I’m not religious. The most hard-hitting parts of the movie for me, is not even the tragic love story of beauty and beast-but the harsh racism, sexism and overall mindset of the 60’s. The comments made by Michael Shannon’s character, Richard Strickland paint a sort of eerie fact that so many people in certain places believe.
I love how Giles is a struggling artist and trying to get his work out (I’ve been there TONS of times!) and that the fact he is gay isn’t done in a stereotypical way. As said about Elisa, I think the movie does an amazing job with making the ‘underdogs’ of the story real human beings. His sexual orientation is actually a very important point of the movie, and I think it’s amazing how the movie has a disabled person, a black person and a gay person and a non-human as the heroes. Social justice is also an important part of my life and seeing that just makes me so happy. In any 50’s horror movie, the scientist, a Strickler-type character would be the hero. The one who saves the girl in the end (much like the movie “Revenge of the Creature.”) However, this movie turns that on its head and we’re left with such a remarkable story about how courage in the face of danger can make a difference. It takes the 50’s horror movie plot points and flips everything around.
Filmmaking / Favorite Moments
Music / Cinematography: I want to frame 99% of the shots in this movie. So many times, I forgot I was watching a movie and I let the dreamlike quality take me away to this amazing fantasy world. The music is no exception, I’d call it beautifully haunting. I loved the romantic songs used in the movie, it really felt like an homage to classic cinema. The tap dancing, the black and white fantasy dance scene (I’ll get to that.) the funny little cameo of Mr. Ed, all these things made me feel like I was watching a classic movie.
Scenes that impacted Me: The film is movie magic in my eyes, but they’re moments I won’t forget seeing for the first time.
- When the creature is watching a movie on the big screen-his look of wonderment as the action is going on is so adorable, I don’t know if that was the intention of Mr. del Toro, but that’s how I felt. It gave him such a childlike naivety.
- The black and white dance scene is the most unique scene in the entire movie. It paints such a classic movie idea, the two leads dancing in a huge ballroom. It’s amazing to know that the two actors had to take dancing lessons and everything you see is in front of camera. The black and white also really added to it. It’s one of the most unique scenes I’ve seen in any movie.
- The creature looking out the window at the pouring rain. It is a simple and rather quick shot, but I get so sad when I see it. Like he’s yearning to swim.
- The final shot of the movie is what got me misty eyed the both times I saw it. The way the lighting falls, the music, the narration, reflecting over all the events of the movie. It all fits so perfectly. It’s so romantic and unique.
With its romance, horror, comedy, life drama, amazing camera work- I also like how weird the whole concept is. It isn’t a typical movie at all. The only movie that comes close to this is “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, but even that is inaccurate. It’s a romance that breaks tropes of the genre. It also harkens back to classic movies, with its bad guy story arch and mood. This movie is what cinema is to me deep down. This is a movie I will be proud to add to my collection and re-watch at least once a year and show everyone I can.
What “The Shape of Water” means to me I guess is to be taken to a strange world you’ve never seen, something somewhat scary, romantic, sometimes beautiful, sometimes makes you think of the world we live in now, it can be weird and honors classics of the past, and you’ll be glad you visited this odd romance that’s deeper than it seems.