Film

The Shape of Water (Film Review) – Well-Made But Not Best Picture Worthy

The Shape of Water is a fantasy drama directed by Guillermo del Toro which stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Sally Hawkins. The story of the film takes place in Baltimore in 1962 and focuses on Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute who works as a custodian at a government laboratory where experiments are being conducted on a humanoid-amphibian named The Asset (Doug Jones). Elisa befriends the creature and their relationship develops into something much more than a friendship.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Shape of Water

I would consider myself to be well above what a casual film fan is. I have seen a lot of films over the years but even I will acknowledge that I have a lot of gaps when it comes to films I need to see. This is certainly the case when it comes to films made by Guillermo del Toro. Before seeing The Shape of Water, I had never seen a Guillermo del Toro film. While this is a shocking statement for those of you who are die-hard fans of this director, this reality only increased my excitement to see this film. I treated The Shape of Water as an event because it would be the first Guillermo del Toro film I would see.

Moreover, the unanimous praise The Shape of Water had been getting from film critics and fans quickly made this film one of my most anticipated films since Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I could not wait to see what looked like a highly original story in a film which has been nominated for and won numerous awards. Indeed, it won Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. The cast for The Shape of Water looked great on paper too which cemented my belief that everything was in place for this film to be amazing.

Doug Jones as The Asset and Sally Hawkins as Elisa in The Shape of Water

My Thoughts on The Shape of Water

My expectations were high and, sadly, not fully met. I liked The Shape of Water but it is one of a vast number of good films that I have no real inclination to see again. I was not as emotionally moved as I wanted to be by the story. Still, I would be lying if I said that you cannot admire many things about this film. The truth is that you can, especially from a technical level.

Certainly, technical elements of The Shape of Water such as the production design and cinematography were absolutely fantastic. The score by Alexandre Desplat was very good too and it felt like its own character within the film. All of this made The Shape of Water feel very atmospheric which I appreciated.

The Performances in The Shape of Water

The performances were another stellar quality of The Shape of Water. Sally Hawkins gave a unique lead performance and made it look easy when it came to communicating without speech. One scene she had with Richard Jenkins’ character about The Asset and her connection to him was a real highlight in this regard.

Richard Jenkins as Giles and Doug Jones as The Asset in The Shape of Water

Still, my favourite performances in the film were given by Richard Jenkins and Michael Shannon. Jenkins provided needed moments of levity with his character’s dry sense of humour and I really liked his relationship with Sally Hawkins’ character. Michael Shannon gave a completely different type of performance to Jenkins but he was incredibly captivating nonetheless. Make no mistake, Michael Shannon is terrifying in The Shape of Water, especially as the film progresses to its conclusion.

My Final Thoughts on The Shape of Water

Thanks to the technical qualities and performances in The Shape of Water, I was never bored during my viewing experience. The film always had fluid momentum and purpose. Yet, at the same time, I was not blown away from an emotional viewpoint when it came to the story.

As such, I have to put The Shape of Water in the same group with other films such as Phantom ThreadCall Me By Your Name and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri as films not worthy of their nominations for Best Picture at the 2018 Oscars. I appreciate The Shape of Water more than I actually like it. In the end, it is a good film but I was not as emotionally affected as others were by it and I am not in a huge rush to watch the film again.

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3 replies »

  1. Although I’m a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro (I’ve seen all of his films), it’s still surprising to me to see how he ended up winning two Oscars. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s an excellent director, but the fantasy genre has never been favored by the Academy so I never thought he would be awarded anything. Also, Del Toro has directed a couple of other very Oscar-worthy films, such as The Devil’s Backbone (his best film in my opinion) and Pan’s Labyrinth, which didn’t get nearly enough praise, so how it is that The Shape of Water got so many awards is still beyond me. In any case, Del Toro remains one of my favorite directors and the Oscar is well-deserved considering his many achievements.

    Liked by 1 person

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