Movie Review: The Shape of Water


Ben Wiche, Staff Writer

When I say the words Oscar Bait, what do you think off? Do you imagine movies wherein a good director and interesting actors recreate the dullest and most banal of historical events. And when I say Monster Movie, what then? Do you imagine spooky ghouls, buckets of blood, and killer effects all brought down by a terrible lead actor and bad dialogue?

What if I told you there was a movie that combined emotional acting, top notch directing, and stunning visuals with a plot that includes: Russian secret agents; a random black and white musical number; themes of social division, love, and outsiderness; buckets upon buckets of blood; and our main character falling in love with a fish man?

What if I told you this movie this movie just won three Golden Globes (Director, Lead Actor, and Original Score)?

Crazy, right? Except, not really. Every aspect of The Shape of Water from the plot to the dialogue to the masterclass acting by Sally Hawkins perfectly sell all of the movie’s weirder elements.

Our lead is the mute Eliza played by Sally Hawkins. She works as a janitor in a secret government lab during the 60’s. Little does she know that her lab is a prison, a prison holding a mysterious yet intriguing fish-man played by Doug Jones. When the fish-man is tortured by a cruel FBI agent (played by Michael Shannon), Eliza decides to break him out. This leads to an ever encapsulating romance between Eliza and the fish man, who actually becomes able to communicate through sign language.

So you’re probably wondering about the whole fish-man romance thing. Well, two things sell this movie. One, the fish-man is an insane combination of an incredibly sympathetic portrayal by Doug Jones and the stupendous work of the effects and makeup teams. Second, Sally Hawkins steals the show and deserves every award known to man and fish-mankind. Due to playing a mute, she communicates partly through subtitled sign language, but mostly through incredible physical acting. Unsurprisingly, these aspects all combine to form a great, human relationship.

And the plot itself is just wonderful, full of marginalized outsiders trying to live and succeed against the cold and unfeeling culture that surrounds them. The ups and downs of the heroes, the deviations and moral shortcomings of the villains, an insane willingness to not only do everything that isn’t done in a big budget romance, and an aesthetic that’s part Norman Rockwell, part Black Lagoon, combine to make The Shape of Water my favorite movie of the year.

Don’t miss it.