Photo courtesy of MCT Campus
The Shape of Water is one of the most bizarre movies I have ever seen, complete with a sex scene between a woman and an Amazonian lizard creature. However, all of the randomness of soviet spies, a high security lab and a very unlikely love story put together create a movie so weird that all of the components work beautifully and in harmony.
Set in the early ‘60s, the story begins with Eliza, played by Sally Hawkins, a mute who has a mundane, scheduled life and longs for human connection. She works as a cleaning lady for a scientific lab with her best friend, Zelda. Together they discover an odd, lizard-like creature and doesn’t speak any english— a creature Eliza couldn’t keep her eyes off of. What started by an act of kindness with Eliza handing the creature a hard boiled egg quickly turned into an unusual romance.
The Shape of Water has many different layers, with one of my favorite being the realistic presentation of social issues. This movie takes place during the ‘60s when a woman’s job was to run the household, the LGBTQ community was not accepted and African Americans were still fighting for civil rights.
The time period this movie takes place in was well before the counterculture and other changes seen in the later ‘60s. The struggles of a gay man are visible through Giles, Eliza’s neighbor, feeling as though he would never find someone to share a life with. Sexism is shown through the sexual harassment and objectification of the the entirely female cleaning staff. For example, colonel Strickland, told Eliza that he thought it was sexy that she was a mute. Race issues are highlighted when African Americans are referred to as “your people” and they’re told to sit in the back of a completely empty diner.
Another one of my favorite aspects is how the shape of water is seen as a metaphor for love added an aspect to the movie that I really appreciated because in a way it showed acceptance of all different kinds of love between different people. It also seemed very clever to me to have the title of the movie literally be a metaphor for one of the main themes. Guillermo del Toro shows the audience how water can take many different shapes— a bathtub, raindrops connecting on a window and even water boiling in a pot. Showing how love can be between anyone, not just necessarily between a woman and a man.
Even with all of the complexities and funny moments, there were a lot of scenes that left me burying my face in my sweatshirt. The gratuitous and revealing sex scenes took away from what was a meaningful and alluring story and ruined the mood, causing me to wish I could fast forward them.
Although there were scenes that made me wish I had not been sitting next to my mother, the acting in The Shape of Water was exceptional. I was especially impressed by Octavia Spencer who played Zelda. Zelda always stood up for Eliza and truly understood her, not being afraid to commit a crime with Eliza and then lie about doing it. Eliza and Zelda’s bond was very relatable to me because I myself have a best friend that I know would stand up for me no matter what. In addition, Eliza conveyed her emotions using only her eyes, making me belly laugh when she used to sign language to say f— you to colonel Strickland and making me wipe tears from my cheeks when she would talk about her love for the creature.
I won’t reveal the ending, but let’s just say that it left me wondering about what love truly is. The Shape of Water is refreshingly different and one of a kind. It’s oddity will pull you in within the first 10 seconds, and it’s ending will leave you wondering what happened to both Eliza and the creature.