Rating: 3/5 (Major Spoilers)
I have very mixed feelings about this movie. From previous experiences with director del Toro, I thought this was the perfect movie for me – combining the fantastical/magical realist elements of the amphibian man with the historical setting of the Cold War.
The Shape of Water follows Elisa, a mute woman who works as a cleaning lady for a government laboratory and lives with struggling artist and closeted gay man, Giles. When Colonel Strickland orders her to clean the space where the amphibian man is held, Elisa is fascinated by the creature, and the two soon forms a connection.
Strickland and the US government, by capturing the creature, seeks to exploit and even dissect it in hopes of beating the Soviet Union in the space race. Learning this, Elisa persuades Giles and her co-worker Zelda to aid her in the efforts of rescuing the amphibian man. They succeed, but barely.
Elisa keeps the amphibian man in her bathtub, counting down the days that she can release him into the canal. At work, the Colonel is furious about the escape of the amphibian man, and orders the scientist, Hoffstetler, to find the amphibian man.
Upon learning that Hoffstetler was a spy, the Colonel shots him and tortures him for information about the amphibian man. He then meets Giles, Elisa, and the amphibian man at the canal, shooting the latter two. We previously learned that the amphibian man possesses powers of healing, and we see him soon heal himself and slash the Colonel across the neck, killing him. He then grabs Elisa into the water, where he heals her, touches her neck, and the scars across her neck open up and reveal to be gills like him.
Critics have compared The Shape of Water to a modern Beauty and the Beast, but I think aside from the fact that there were two “non-human”/humanoid men in these movies, the resemblance stops there.
In some ways, The Shape of Water is quite like Call Me By Your Name. When Elisa mimes to Giles that “when he looks at me, the way he looks at me, he does not know what I lack or how I am incomplete. He sees me for what I am as I am. He’s happy to see me every time, every day”, it’s reminiscent of the famous “call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine” line, in the sense that two entities (we won’t be calling them people today) can be completed by each other.
I really can’t pinpoint an exact reason as why I didn’t like this movie. It might’ve resulted a little bit from me watching it on a plane, but I’ve watched other movies on planes and loved them. I think the biggest reason was that I didn’t buy into the movie’s worldview and didn’t really believe the love between Elisa and the Amphibian Man. That would probably ruin the movie for me.
I would still recommend this movie to people who have liked del Toro’s previous works, as The Shape of Water definitely exceeds his previous movies in ambition and most likely budget. I didn’t particularly like it, but that’s only my opinion against two, three? Oscars.