Movie Review: The Shape of Water

I have been a fan, but not a devoted one, of Guillermo del Torro since I had the good fortune to catch Chronos during its theatrical run and from the first trailers The Shape of Water, is a movie I wanted to see.

Sadly I spent weeks in December and January sick with colds and flu, but this weekend I finally managed to make the time to go see the movie, properly in a theater.

The Shape of Water, clearly inspired by the classic Universal film The Creature from the Black Lagoon, takes place in a mythical USA, someplace between 1957 and 1961, when the country was locked in a spacer-ace and the cold war with the USSR. Elisa and Zelda work as janitorial staff in a secret government facility just outside of Baltimore when a new asset, the amphibian man is brought into the center. The new security officer, Strickland, is flat portrayal of 50’s white, heterosexual, patriarchy dominance and very much the villain and antagonist of the movie. Over the course of the story Elisa and others from marginalized communities, discover the humanity in that which is not human and the inhumanity in their own species.

The film is a fairly tale, one of del Torro’s favorite areas to work in, and the opening narration places within that genre as surely as if it had intoned, ‘One upon a time.’ The film is photographic beautifully, and the period is rendered in loving detail. The performances, over all, are sharp, layered, and nuanced. Strickland, for my tastes, is presented in a too one-dimensional manner and this weakens an otherwise strong script. I found it easier to accept a song and dance number deep within the movie than the broad, stereotypical villain. Still, it is a very enjoyable film, and one well worth seeing in a comfortable theater with good sound and image.

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