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It is a tale as old as time but it is no Beauty and the Beast. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water dives into a story of compassion, acceptance, and love.

Set in the post-war era during the Cold War, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works at a top secret military facility as a janitor. Every night she cleans the toilet, mops up the floor, and keeps the facility clean with her colleague and best friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Her life is practically a routine of mundane tasks- work at night and hang out with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) at day. That is the case until one night a creature caught at the rivers of South America was kept at the facility. Agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) oversees the project to beat the Russian forces in developing a weapon.

The True Monster

Strickland is the type of person who would do anything to achieve his goals. Making him worse of a person is his oozing machismo and sadism. One could argue that he was just testing The Asset (Doug Jones) but his actions show nothing but plain evil. At one point, his pleasure-seeking left the creature bloody which paved the way for Elisa and the Asset to meet.

Michael Shannon and Sally Hawkins clash in The Shape of Water. | Credit: 20th Century Fox
Michael Shannon and Sally Hawkins clash in The Shape of Water. | Credits: 20th Century Fox

Del Toro’s The Shape of Water proved that monsters really do exist but it is up to the characters to define who the real monster is. In the film, however, it is the man who acts lesser of a man and more of a monster.

Found Love in a Hopeless Place

Amidst the chaos and suffering, a tale of romance emerged between Elisa and the Asset. Her compassion towards the creature evolved into something far more meaningful. And with this development comes an evolution in character. Elisa, once a timid, do-no-harm woman took courage to sneak The Asset out of the facility and take care of it until the perfect time to set it free in the open.

An unlikely romance buds in The Shape of Water. | Credits: 20th Century Fox
An unlikely romance buds in The Shape of Water. | Credits: 20th Century Fox

Watching the human and non-human relationship unfold was uncanny, surreal, yet romantic. Sally Hawkins did a perfect job in the film. Despite having only a scene to speak, she attracted the audiences to her enigmatic character- all that with just sign language and her facial expressions. Octavia Spencer, on the other hand, complemented the quiet character with her wit and sass. The two made a perfect tandem in finishing their quest against the force that is Strickman.

Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water | Credits: 20th Century Fox
Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer in The Shape of Water | Credits: 20th Century Fox

The Shape of Water is a modern fairy tale teeming with the signature touches from the Master of Monsters, Guillermo del Toro. The complexity of the characters contributed to the beauty of the story. The dreamy cinematography matched with the amazing soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat elevated the fantasy vibes of the film.

It is surreal, inspiring, and romantic. In a superficial world, The Shape of Water reminds the audiences that love goes deep and takes no form nor shape, like the water.

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones
Binge-level: 5 out of 5 stars

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