Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Strickland, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbargas, Octavia Spencer and Nick Searcy.
Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)
“If I told you about her, what would I say? That they lived happily ever after?”
It’s tough enough falling for someone, at any point in your life. Before you know it, a special spark can arc between you and someone completely unexpected or from so left field that it doesn’t even feel real until you’re in the moment and head-over-heels? But it’s probably a lot harder if you developed feelings for, erm, a fish person?
Meet Elisa Esposito (Sally ‘Mary Brown in Paddington’ Hawkins), a mute janitor working at a top-secret government research institution. Her life is one of simple pleasures such as watching TV with her older neighbour Giles, boiling eggs or taking baths.
Her days are monotonous but Elisa keeps her spirits up, helped by her one friend at work Zelda Fuller (Octavia ‘The Shack’ Spencer). Everything changes when a strange cross between man and fish creature from South-America is captured and brought to the laboratory to be studied. This Amphibian Man (Doug ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ Jones) seems to be sad so Elisa begins to secretly feed eggs, play him music and the two begin an unlikely friendship …
Of course, the path of interspecies love never does run straight (this isn’t a Beauty & The Beast scenario) but there is certainly a ‘boo-hiss’ baddie. Sadistic security guard Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) takes pleasure in torturing the creature who bites off two fingers of his fingers in return … Thus making Strickland vow to destroy it.
So the scene is set for a dark otherworldly romance, a tale short through with strangeness and joy, heartbreak, violence and danger. The performances are excellent, the writing, directing and visuals all work together to make a really unique cinematic experience.
Director Guillermo del Toro is great at creating weird and wonderful stories and The Shape of Water certainly deserves all the awards buzz it is getting.
It seems that kindred relationships can come in all shapes, sizes, creeds, genders and even include fish people … The Shape of Water will make you want to fall in love whatever the barriers, costs or danger – and for that reason it’s a great film of choice for Valentine’s Day and beyond.
Thinking Material: Help I’m in love with a fish …
Falling for someone (anyone) can be an unnerving and difficult experience – most of us fortunately won’t have a blood thirsty sadist chasing you and trying to kill the one you love like happens in the film. But it is always a balancing act of making yourself vulnerable and not wanting to get hurt – especially if the one you’ve lost your heart to doesn’t necessarily return the feelings or moves on to someone else.
The Shape of Water is a great film to watch and discuss because of it raises the issues of love being more than skin deep, of loving someone who society says you really shouldn’t and of asking what is worth risking to find your soul mate.
Those with friends who are believers can find it hard to be open about their feelings for fear of being judged. Let’s not be those people who make it tough for others, I think God would want us to try to be understanding of whatever situation those we know find themselves in. Speaking wisdom and guidance is one thing but in affairs of the heart it is easy to become overly preachy, when guys in particular may just want to share how they are feeling without getting a lecture on what they are going through.
There’s definitely something fishy about this romantic dark fantasy – and it’s not just that it doesn’t hold back on any level so there is some nudity, violence and peril to go along with the warm and fuzzy stuff. In that way it’s a lot like life then really!?
5 out of 5 stars
Related Films: The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Beauty & The Beast, Pan’s Labyrinth