Despite the mixed feelings viewers have for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, it’s hard to completely hate the story.
The film follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a custodian at a government laboratory, as she develops a relationship with a mysterious amphibian creature (Doug Jones) and tries to rescue the creature.
The protagonist Elisa is an interesting character. Unlike most films that feature characters with disabilities, Elisa’s personality doesn’t revolve around the fact that she can’t speak. Instead, the film focuses on her character as a lonely person looking for companionship. Hawkins did a wonderful job portraying Elisa, especially during emotional scenes where the character shows her frustration at being unable to convey her emotions. Elisa’s friendships with the other characters were also nicely portrayed. The father-daughter relationship between Elisa and Giles (Richard Jenkins) and the friendship Elisa and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) were both very sweet, though lacking in depth.
Similar to his previous films, The Shape of Water reflects del Toro’s unique style of portraying an everyday life that seems normal at first but soon reveals to have something lurking underneath. The foreshadowing within the film seem unnoticeable at first. By the end of the film, however, it becomes clear that del Toro had been giving hints from the very beginning.
Do the short scenes portraying violence, homophobia, racism and sexual assault feel entirely necessary? Not really. Were there any other ways it could have played out? Absolutely. Did it still make sense at the end? Definitely.
Choosing to portray those scenes might have been a nudge toward the audience to realize how “normalized” these things are and how if they happen, viewers feel like there has to be a reason why these scenes need to exist. Or the production team behind The Shape of Water could have just included those scenes for the heck of it.
Considering the fact that it’s a new plot based on a fairy tale rather than just a rehash of a popular animated film (looking at you Disney) certainly made the film better. It was filled with suspense, wonder and audience members worrying for the well-being of the characters, regardless if we really knew them that well or not.
Even though people may not be inclined to rewatch the movie over and over again, the film is not as bad as people make it sound, not as bad as it could have been and definitely left the viewer satisfied.
One thing is for sure, it’ll be a while before looking at hard-boiled eggs won’t immediately bring to mind an amphibian partner and ‘40s music.