Reviews: The Shape Of Water

The Little Mermaid, Backwards

The Shape of Water, not "The Shape of the Water” as I keep wanting to call it, is a cute movie about a mute janitor who befriends a Creature from the Black Lagoon style fish-man, at the secret facility she works at (in no doubt breaching the company's HR policy on workplace relationships). The art-deco style and water imagery conjures up memories of Bioshock, but the movie will be most familiar to anyone who has seen The Iron Giant, or even ET.

There are not a lot of surprises with this kind of narrative; you've seen before the asymmetric relationship between a lonely person and an alien that breaks a lot of things by accident, the scene where they dance to retro music, the villain that is a swivel-eyed, Mc Carthy type government agent… the only thing ‘’Shape of Water’’ is missing is a scene where the hero disguises the fishman in a wig and long coat. None of this is to say the movie is bad; ET and Iron Giant are solid movies, and Shape of Water is on par with them on a technical and emotional level. It’s just not breaking new ground.

The one original element is probably the one that is going to cause the most tittering. Elisa`s relationship with the fishman is a lot less plutonic than other such movies, and that`s completely fine. This could have easily been ridiculous, but by the time we get to the more off-beat romance scenes, we’re invested enough in these two that they don`t seem particularly silly at all. The other factor is Del Toro, whose eye for beautiful looking sets, prosthetic costumes, and occasional horrifying gore give the movie a unique style.

One observation I`ve made is that its Academy Award competitor, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, received something of a backlash for paying lipservice to things like police racism, sexism and ableism, only to ultimately make a white woman and a racist man the focus of the story anyway. Almost the exact same criticism can be made of Water, giving us another protagonist with a gay best friend and a black best friend, both of whom are routinely abused but don’t get to be the centre of the story. I personally didn’t find that all too onerous, but if it bothered you in Three Billboards it`ll bother you here. Otherwise, I liked Shape of Water a great deal. It’s a lovely, gooey movie that is never afraid to get dark or disgusting.