“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere.”
That line from an unknown poem pretty well defines the movie, The Shape of Water.
Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is pure movie magic. It is hard to peg exactly where this genre movie falls, but since del Toro was heavily influenced by Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), I’ll start there. This movie is much more than just a horror film. It is a period piece, a romantic thriller, and a spy movie, all wrapped into one. It explores the timeless themes of loneliness, alienation, isolation, being different from others in an intolerant society, and yes, falling in love with the other.
Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito
Sally Hawkins plays disaffected and lonely janitor Elisa Esposito. She works at a Aerospace research facility in Baltimore with her friend Zelda, (Octavia Spencer). Elisa is mute and communicates with the world in signs. The time is 1962 at the height of the cold war. Sometime while working her shift a specimen is brought into the lab that had been captured in the Amazon and is worshiped by the natives as a god. The creature is described by the military as the “asset.”
This asset is a humanoid type creature that Elisa is able to befriend. She discovers that he is intelligent and communicates with him in sign language. They develop quite a relationship together. When the creature becomes endangered Elisa plots to set him free in a rain canal in Baltimore. But first she smuggles him out of the facility and into her small apartment where she keeps him in her bathtub. While there they fall in love.
The creature has a curious way of glowing in blue colors when stimulated and is a marvel to watch.
Spoilers ahead: The military, in the form of Colonel Richard Strickland, is hot on their trail. He gets to the canal just as the creature is about to make his escape. Strickland shoots both the creature and Elisa. Miraculously the creature is able to heal himself of the gunshot wounds (he is a god after all) and also to heal Elisa. He grabs her up and leaps into the canal. He gives her gills so that she may breathe underwater and presumably they are able to live happily ever after.
I just loved this movie. This is why you go to the movies. You keep going to see movie after movie, hoping you will see one that you can connect with, hoping to see a movie as good as the best movie you ever saw, wanting to hit that high mark one more time, but seldom ever making it. This is Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Hollywood and he has copied it to the rest of us. It is genius.
The Shape of Water jumps to the top of my Best Movies of the Year list for 2017. I give it a 10/10. The only other movie that I rated that high this year was Blade Runner 2049. I am not sure which one will get the top slot, but I have to admit, I am a sucker for a good loves story.