The Shape of Water [movie reaction]

Update: 3/5/18 This film won Best Picture in the Oscars and Best Director for Guillermo del Toro

“If I spoke about it–If I did–what would I tell you, I wonder? Would I tell you about the time? It happened a long time ago, in the last days of a fair Prince’s reign. Or would I tell you about the place? A small city near the coast but far from everything else. Or would I tell you about her? The princess without voice.” -from the opening narration of the movie

When I heard of Guillermo del Toro's new movie The Shape of Water, I immediately liked the concept. Merman in love with a human girl? That's something I'd want to watch. I watched the trailer and was more intrigued that the female protagonist is a mute woman working as a janitor at a secret government facility where this mysterious creature is kept for research purposes.

The movie is set in the 1960s, during the Cold War. Russia and America are competing in space exploration.

We meet Elisa, a mute woman. We see her life and her daily routines each day. She has a couple of friends: her coworker Zelda, a fellow janitor; and Giles, her gay neighbor. She speaks in sign language (with subtitles on screen). Her monotonous life gets disrupted when a strange creature is kept in the laboratory, and her being the cleaner, she has access to the restricted pool where it stays.

The first time they looked at each other.
Soon, Elisa and the creature share a bond and Elisa visits him in secret. She brings him eggs, teaches him sign language, and makes him listen to music. They are fascinated with each other, and Elisa seems to be the only one who sees it as more than a mere creature. I didn't even notice that the two actors didn't speak the whole time! Even with the costume, Doug Jones can still express intense emotion. Sally Hawkins, the actress playing Elisa, is great as well. They show that they can act even without words!

The villain in the story is Colonel Richard Strickland who captured the creature from a river, and the locals worship it as a god. Strickland repeatedly abuses the creature and plans to kill it. Elisa, knowing this plan, sets out to save it. She finds an ally in the scientist Robert Hoffstetler, who doesn't want the creature to die. Together with her friends, they try to do what they can to save it.

Elisa shows him a cute picture book.
Meanwhile, Elisa and the creature fall in love. That may sound weird but it makes more sense in the movie and it was executed really well. Even if the love interest is a humanoid amphibian, the emotion and realness of it make it a great love story.

This movie feels more like a fairy tale, like The Little Mermaid in reverse set in the 1960s. It feels whimsical and vintage, and the atmosphere of the entire movie is inspired by water: underwater scenes, rain everywhere, pools and moisture in most frames. It's worth watching on the big screen.
If I told you about her, what would I say? That they lived happily ever after? I believe they did. That they were in love? That they remained in love? I’m sure that’s true. But when I think of her… of Elisa… the only thing that comes to mind is a poem… whispered by someone in love hundreds of years ago.
“Unable to perceive the shape of You… I found You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love. It humbles my heart for You are everywhere.”

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