Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Just as the color green was a major theme of del Toro‘s Crimson Peak, water is a major theme of this movie.
The film’s Amphibian Man lives in heavily treated water. Water flows throughout the movie via frequent rain storms, dancing raindrops on windows, glasses of water spilled and unspilled, and the opening credits with their floating furniture.
It’s all very wet. We’re even treated to a mini-rainstorm in an old-fashioned movie palace.
At its heart THE SHAPE OF WATER is a beautifully crafted and wonderfully acted interspecies romance. Sally Hawkins’ mute cleaning lady glows as a modern day Belle. Doug Jones, through amazing makeup, projects intelligence and sensitivity despite his character's beastly nature. Michael Shannon, in my opinion, steals the show as the government research facility’s director of security. He delights in torturing the creature, thus setting in motion the main plot.
All is set against the backdrop of 1960s Baltimore where we alternate between shabby urban interiors and sleek underground research labs, all decorated and audibly littered with the sights and sounds of the era. Del Toro infuses the film with period nostalgia via references to older films and TV shows. The 1960s have never looked more quaint, yet the timelines of what we see in passing as news on scattered TV sets seem drawn from multiple eras.
This jumbling up of what was happening in the external world is probably Del Toro’s intention. He’s illustrating a dream. We can’t always rely on our dreams to get things right even if they do represent a seemingly realistic version of the truth.
Numerous examples of reality do pop up throughout the film including racism, homophobia, and rampant consumerism. These real world touches anchor the main story. They remind us that even our best dreams and worst nightmares can contain elements of truth.
If we are lucky we wake up after a time and return to the real world. Movies can be like that. They help us escape for a time into a dreamlike state. THE SHAPE OF WATER is one such movie.
Review copyright (c) 2018 by Dennis D. McDonald