Culture, Review

The Shape of Water: “No ordinary love story”

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By Emma Greensill


The Shape of Water is not the most typical love story, yet it’s one of the most touching to hit the screens in a long time. The unique relationship that forms between the most unlikely of companions is set in the US in the early 60s with the growing tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, in particular the space race, providing the backdrop.

Having already been nominated for 268 awards and winning 87, including two Golden Globes – one for Best Director (Motion Picture) and another for Best Original Score (Motion Picture), and a BAFTA for Best Production Design, The Shape of Water is becoming critically praised for its wondrous yet weird romantic thriller.

Elisa Esposito, brilliantly portrayed by Sally Hawkins, was found by a river as a baby with scars on her neck, suggesting the reason for her silence. Her best friend and neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins), who has lost his job, spends his days watching Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Betty Grable on TV reruns, dreaming of the waiter behind the counter in the local Dixie Doug’s Pie Emporium.

Elisa works at a secret government lab as a cleaner in Baltimore. The facility receives a creature in a tank, which has been captured from a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Curious, Elisa discovers that the creature is a humanoid amphibian and begins visiting the creature in secret, forming a close bond with it.

With the cinematography and production designs working together, the cameras flowing like water and the dark, blue-green lighting and clothing giving the feeling of being underwater, the story is constantly being reaffirmed to the audience.

As Elisa justifies to Giles why she has to save the amphibian, she explains that just because he can’t talk, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t worth saving. This is done in an emotional and gripping way as she makes Giles speak what she is signing, so when she is saying that she relates to the amphibian because she can’t talk either, asking the question “What does that make me?”, the audience immediately understands that there is no doubt in her mind about what she does in the scenes to come.

One surprising scene in the film is when Elisa is telling the creature how much she loves him, in which she breaks out in the song “You’ll never know just how much I care” in the style of her and Giles’ favourite TV show. This adds an uplifting side to the sad fact that she has to release the creature back to sea, but also shows how much she really does love him as her silence is broken just to tell him that.

Guillermo Del Toro said in an interview with IndieWire, “I speak as an adult, about something that worries me. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we’re going.” Which is exactly what he has done in The Shape of Water, and I would recommend it to anyone that wants to watch a film that is uplifting and relevant in this day and age.

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