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The Shape of Water

by Kristina Livingston - Executive Editor
Tue, Jan 30th 2018 10:00 pm

Previously mocked for its outlandish concept matter, master monster storyteller Guillermo del Toro’s latest release, “The Shape of Water”, now leads the Oscar nomination count race with a respectable 13 nods. This is a film that I had been anticipating seeing since I first caught wind of its pre-production status. As del Toro stated to some degree, for the first time in cinematic history, the monster finally gets the girl. I find arguments about beastiality irrelevant here when discussing the deeply intimate relationship the film’s protagonist forms with the movie’s monster, as we learn the entire purpose of it being neither parties are seen as fully human and the absolute peace both find in one another. Elisa, a mute woman tasked with janitorial duties in the early 1960s (Sally Hawkins), finds friendship in her neighbor, an aging gay man unsure of his own life’s intent (Richard Jenkins), her brilliantly alert black coworker (Octavia Spencer), and in time, the captive of the facility which she cleans (Doug Jones). 

“The Shape of Water” brings moviegoers one of the most beautifully visual love stories in recent cinema, foregoing all cheesy tropes and allowing us to accompany Elisa on her journey to feel content for what we must assume is the first time in her life. Del Toro brings it all to the table — unforgettable acting performances, stellar cinematography with a remarkable color palette and a score stuffed to the brim with piano chords so gorgeous you’ll be dreaming about light filtering into water to the tune of Alexandre Desplat for months. 

I found the film’s pacing to be one of the most surprising aspects. In this regard I was pleasantly surprised, as I was with the cast of poignant characters. Del Toro tends to shine in his character creation, notably who he fills in a film’s antagonistic role, here with the devious and bloodthirsty Colonal Richard Strickland, portrayed by Michael Shannon. 

So enamored am I with this film that I struggle to find flaws in it — I’m sure if I were to rewatch, I’d certainly be able to find flaws. Perhaps Doug Jones could have exercised the physicality of his height and bodily strengths as “the creature” some more, but I’m not too particular. And to be honest, while the more intimate scenes in the film were artistic and erotic, it wouldn’t hurt to have more. 

I am refreshed in this age of movies being churned out for capitalistic gain rather than the art they have the potential to impart upon the cinematic world. I will cling onto “The Shape of Water” and wait patiently for creative visionaries to bring unique stories to this platform once more.

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