Review: The Shape of Water – Wet, weird and wonderful

The Shape of Water

If you’ve ever wondered what E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial might have been like if it had more nudity and female masturbation scenes (And who hasn’t asked themselves that question?), well, writer/director Guillermo del Toro has an answer for you in the form his new film, The Shape of Water; a wet, weird and wonderful fable set in the Cold War world of the early 1960s.

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a lonely mute maid at a government research facility who becomes infatuated with a captured and tortured amphibious creature (played by actor Doug Jones – not to be confused with Jone’s Abe Sapien character in the Hellboy films.)

The Shape of WaterThe forbidden woman/monster love is complicated by the despicable Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who plans to dissect the creature to find out what makes it tick; that is unless the Russians can kidnap the thing first.

Elisa and her neighbor (Richard Jenkins) devise a plan to help the monster escape and, with the help of her protective co-worker (Octavia Spencer), they hope to return the creature to the sea before the Russians or the U.S. government can catch up to them.

At its core we’ve seen this sort of monster movie before, but not one with the beautiful cinematography by Dan Laustsen or the deep-rooted love of the genre that is felt in the writing by del Toro and co-writer, Vanessa Taylor. The performances here, especially the bold portrayal of Elisa by Hawkins, are also first rate; as are the make-up, special effects, and production and art design.

There are some logic issues with this film that won’t stand up to strict sci-fi scrutiny, but the film is being marketed as a “fairy-tale,” so don’t think about it too much and you’ll be fine. My only real problem with this movie is that it could have been just as good – maybe better – without some unnecessary gore and the aforementioned gratuitous nudity.

As is, The Shape of Water is a fairy-tale that kids can’t (or shouldn’t) enjoy – and that’s a shame. Nevertheless, open-minded, adult, creature-movie fans will have fun seeing a film where the girl goes gaga for the monster. Grade: 8/10

Photos Copyright © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.