"The Shape of Water" Movie Review

Updated on May 28, 2019
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water | Source

From the gothic horror of Crimson Peak to the Transformers-style mayhem of Pacific Rim to the mind-bending fairytale of Pan’s Labyrinth, writer/director Guillermo del Toro has made it a point to keep his audiences guessing. The only constant in his work, it seems, is his devotion to the visual majesty of the finished project, and that continues with his latest, the stunning The Shape of Water.

As visually impeccable as it is, though, it doesn’t succeed quite as much as it should, feeling at times almost half-baked, as if del Toro had to cut a decent chunk of the film to keep it just at two hours. There’s not much in the way of subtlety and nuance on display in The Shape of Water, either; the conclusion is fairly well telegraphed, and it’s what keeps the film from becoming an unequivocal win. I wanted to be moved (and plenty of people have been, surely), but it just didn’t happen for me.

That’s not to say there still isn’t plenty to love about the film. From the ethereal underwater images that open the film through to the bookended finale, The Shape of Water is a treat for the eyes—a Cold War-era story that feels as authentic to the early ’60s as any film made at that time. And the performances from the extremely talented cast are worth every one of the accolades they’ve already earned.

Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa, a mute, night-shift cleaning woman at an underground government lab in Baltimore. Alongside her co-worker and interpreter Zelda (Octavia Spencer), she spends her time in a mundane rut, and her home life isn’t much better. A creature of habit, Elisa follows the same routine morning and night, and her seemingly only companion is Giles (Richard Jenkins), the kindly gent across the hall.

Her life is turned upside down one evening, though, when the mysterious and domineering Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) brings a new “asset” into the lab, a gilled, walking sea monster reminiscent of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Elisa and the creature form an instant bond, unbeknownst to the scientists, as she “teaches” him about everything from food to music, communicating with sign language. When she discovers the lab is going to kill the monster to study him, she jumps into action to try save him.

There is a myriad of subplots at play in The Shape of Water, including Giles’ closeted homosexuality, the racial strife of the era, and a bit involving covert Russian agents—none of which, surprisingly, amount to much in the grand scheme of things. It’s almost as though del Toro, who co-wrote the script with Vanessa Taylor (Hope Springs), inexplicably forgot about them all as quickly as he put them on paper.

There’s no denying the fact The Shape of Water is being hailed from all corners as a filmmaking triumph, and it has the awards and nominations to prove it, but as with La La Land last year, I’m not counting myself among those championing it. It’s not a travesty or a failure by any stretch, but there’s so much more of a movie that could have been made here than what ended up as the finished product.


3.5/5 stars

'The Shape of Water' trailer


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)