2017 | 123 minutes | Rated R
The Shape of Water is strange, sweet, and wonderful, and easily the greatest film ever made about a mute cleaning lady who falls in love with an amphibious fish man. A fairy tale set in 1962, it finds Elisa (Sally Hawkins) working the graveyard shift at the Occam Aerospace Research Center—a cold institution that marks a time, del Toro says, “where America is looking forward. Everything [is] about the future... and here comes a creature from the most ancient past.” That creature—wide-eyed, gilled, and played with strength and inquisitiveness by Doug Jones—is imprisoned at Occam. Locked in a tank and chained in a pool, he’s prodded by a reverent scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg) and tortured by a dominating military man (Michael Shannon). When Elisa finds him, she recognizes a kindred spirit—and feels an attraction that’s met with varying degrees of enthusiasm from her dubious coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her artist neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). Whether they’re human or... whatever the hell the creature is, The Shape of Water’s characters are played by some of the best actors working today—all of whom give whole-hearted, nuanced performances, anchoring a story that can feel bigger (and weirder) than life. The characters’ depth is reinforced by del Toro: his stories are marked by an earnest affinity for outcasts—which, in the falsely idealized America of the 1960s, includes the mute Elisa, the closeted Giles, and the Black Zelda.
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