Plot: Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works on the janitorial crew of a government research lab, but she pines for more out of life. She loves old movies and the romance within them, a passion she shares with her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). The two spend a good deal of time watching the classics, whenever Giles isn’t forcing her to eat pie so he can bask in the presence of a pie shop clerk. At work, a new arrival has the entire lab abuzz and she and her colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are tasked to keep the area clean, so they’re able to get a close look. The two make a great pair, as Zelda loves to talk and Elisa is a mute, but she loves to listen. When Elisa sees that the new arrival is some of aquatic creature, she is intrigued and begins to attempt to reach out. Soon she and the creature forge a special bond, eating lunch together and listening to records, with Elisa falling in love in the process. But her boss Richard (Michael Shannon) wants to see the creature killed and vivisected, so when the orders come down and approve the procedure, Elisa knows she has to take drastic action…
Entertainment Value: The Shape of Water is a wonderful modern b movie, a masterful treatment of the genre and while it pays tribute to some rather obvious inspirations, it always feels like a fresh vision. The production values are impressive, with some fantastic set designs and a beautiful overall atmosphere, though I wasn’t as taken with the cinematography and general visual presence. A few set pieces buck that trend, with the underwater elements hitting a dreamlike realm, but overall I found the core visual design to be a little uninspired. I loved Elisa, a radiant character who beams with silent charisma, even if the movie plays on her adorable nature a little too hard at times. The dynamic between Elisa and her friends is executed with immense skill, the same can be said for her bond with the amphibian man. The romance is a little silly at times, but it is effective and fun to watch unfold. But once the movie shifts to a more tense, race the clock approach, The Shape of Water loses steam and putters along until a solid, suitable conclusion. While it does derail for a long stretch, the positives far outweigh the lesser elements and this one is a pleasure to watch. If you’re a fan of b movies or offbeat romances, this one is highly recommended.
The movie has some scenes of nakedness, as Sally Hawkins disrobes a few times and is fully nude. So this means topless, bare ass, and brief full frontal, though it never feels gratuitous or overly graphic. Even if you’re squeamish about naked flesh, the nudity here is handled with taste and doesn’t feel exploitative. A few bursts of violence occur, with severed fingers, slashes, gun shots, and such all present. While the bloodshed is rather low, the violence is often still quite impactful, especially in scenes where the creature is abused and tortured. The violence is counteracted by the light, sometimes even silly tone, but it still packs a punch. The dialogue is well written, able to tell a competent narrative and still pay tribute to the b movie vibes, through some silliness and melodrama. It also has some tough guy talk, tough love on a business level, and rampant complaints about a husband. The movie tries to force in some social commentary, but it feels slight and heavy handed, just token attempts to touch on sensitive subjects. The shifts in tone aren’t too distracting, but it does throw off the vibe at times. As for craziness, the movie’s whimsical b movie atmosphere adds some wackiness, but otherwise this one stays within the expected conventions.
Overall Insanity: 2/10