THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) Reviews and overview

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The Shape of Water is a 2017 American fantasy thriller film directed by Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak; Pacific Rim; Blade II; Cronos) from a screenplay co-written with Vanessa Taylor. It stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer.

Baltimore, 1962: Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a shy mute woman. She works the night shift as a janitor at the Occam Aerospace Research Center. The facility receives a new “asset” discovered by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) in the rivers of South America.

After Elisa has a brief encounter with the Asset (Doug Jones), which she discovers is an amphibious humanoid creature, she begins sneaking into the enclosure. Over time, the two become close.

Strickland’s superior, General Hoyt (Nick Searcy), is interested in The Asset’s biology. He wants its body harvested to study for the advancement of space travel technology.

One of the center’s scientists, Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is actually a Soviet spy named Dmitri, pleads with Hoyt and Strickland to allow the creature to live for the sake of further study.

Unable to delay the Asset’s procedure, Robert’s superiors instruct him to euthanize the creature, preferring to disrupt American technological progress than enhancing their own.

Desperate and afraid, Elisa convinces her next-door neighbor, commercial artist Giles (Richard Jenkins) to help break the Asset out…


” …we shouldn’t surprised that The Shape of Water looks amazing. There’s not a detail unconsidered or design element unrefined. The ensemble is uniformly incredible as well, especially Hawkins, who gives one of the best silent performances in film history.” Brian Tallerico,

” …his latest finds del Toro firmly back in territory he excels at, telling a beautiful story of unconventional love and unorthodox creatures. I’ve used a lot of adjectives in this review, but beautiful is really the very best word to describe The Shape of Water.” Erik Walkuski, Arrow in the Head

The Shape of Water is as strange and brave as people can be strange and brave, especially the quiet ones, the weird ones you don’t think that much about, who hang out at the fringes of every crowd and watch with their odd, open expressions. […] I wish there was more, but there’s enough. It’s H.P. Lovecraft’s Splash.” Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

“Let’s gloss over the notion that a minimum-wage cleaner would be allowed unfettered access to such a fantastical beast, never mind embark on a scheme that involves spiriting him out, into the midst of Baltimore, concealed inside a linen trolley. Del Toro provides just enough spade-work to keep the scheme plausible and his film is stylish and charming…” Xan Brooks, The Guardian

“With The Shape of Water del Toro proves he knows how to add just the right amount of every cinematic ingredient at the right time for such an uplifting anti-fascist experience, and we sure need those right now.” Nick James, Sight & Sound

“Bigotry and meanness flow through every moment like an underground stream, but kindness is always possible, and so is beauty. The Shape of Water is made of vivid colors and deep shadows; it’s as gaudy as a musical (and briefly turns into one), bright as a cartoon and murky as a film noir.” A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“We should be eternally grateful for the filmmaker, who exudes an unparalleled knowledge of how film works, and uses this knowledge to his full advantage. Here he has created one of the best movies of 2017, a stunning, romantic fable that will have you shedding tears of happiness. What a beautiful movie this is. What a remarkable filmmaker Guillermo del Toro is.” Chris Evangelista, SlashFilm

” …The Shape of Water is a breathless film, anchored by Hawkins’ visible, ardent longing for connection, and her fierce defiance when the things she loves are threatened. Her performance alone would be reason enough to embrace the film, and the supporting cast — particularly Jenkins with his prickly fussing, and Michael Stuhlbarg as a sympathetic Russian spy — is tremendous.” Tasha Robinson, The Verge

The Shape of Water is a beautiful love letter to the classic movie monster and possibly the most stunning movie Del Toro has crafted yet. The themes of love, loneliness, and monsters blend together so well and creates a compelling narrative that touched me in a profound way.” Jason McDonald,

MOVIES and MANIA Verdict:

Director Guillermo del Toro has created a visually impressive feast for the eyes and provided a heartwarming story with stand-out performances, especially from Sally Hawkins.

Cast and characters:

  • Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito, a mute janitor at the facility
  • Michael Shannon as Colonel Richard Strickland, Elisa’s superior and Elaine’s husband
  • Richard Jenkins as Giles, Elisa’s friend and neighbor, a closeted commercial artist
  • Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller, Elisa’s friend and one of her co-workers
  • Doug Jones as Amphibious Man, the creature and “asset” being tested at the facility
  • Michael Stuhlbarg as Doctor Robert Hoffstetler, one of Richard’s scientists
  • Lauren Lee Smith as Elaine Strickland, Richard’s wife
  • Nick Searcy as General Hoyt
  • David Hewlett as Fleming

Filming locations:

Principal photography began on August 15, 2016, in Hamilton, Ontario and wrapped on November 6, 2016

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