“The Shape of Water” Will Flood Your Heart

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Fox Searchlight Pictures

The winner of Best Picture at the 90th annual Oscar awards was “The Shape of Water,” directed by Guillermo del Toro. The film also won Best Director, Best Original Film Score, and Best Production Design. The film also won a slew of other awards from the Golden Globes, Golden Lion, BAFTA, Directors’ Guild, Producers Guild, Critics’ Choice, ADG Excellence, and Satellite Awards.

“The Shape of Water” came out Dec.1, but after I saw it in March, I did not know what to think.  

My thoughts before viewing the film were trapped in the controversial relationship between the two main characters, Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) and Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins). I had heard the film focused on a sexual perversion, and after the first implicit scene, I admit that I doubted the value of the film.    

But soon after getting past my preconceptions, the film’s beauty and the importance of its message broke through.

It was mesmerizing. Every shot blossomed into beautiful moments that developed the plot. The directing was superb, as you would expect from an Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning film. During some of the violent and intimate moments, I was left dumbfounded, thinking this film just did that? It did… okay.

But this is not what I remember the film for. I remember it for its time-sensitive theme. It’s full of a message we all need to hear and remember, which is encapsulated beautifully by Director del Toro’s quote: “Every day on social media, every day in our lives, we are taught to fear something. Fear the other, fear the other religion, the other immigrant, the other gender, and it’s a time to embrace the fact that there’s no us and them, but only us, and that’s all we have.”

It’s important to keep in mind that this movie does put you on the edge of your seat, but the message that fear is not the answer overpowers the initial uneasiness. 

The antagonist, Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), is first introduced as clean cut and ready to be the best boss so he can provide for his family, but as the film progresses, he becomes more and more blinded and bigoted by his instinct to win. He hurts almost everyone in his path.

“If we were doing this as a monster movie, the character of Strickland would be the hero. The square-jawed, government agent and the creature would be the monster,” said del Toro in a “Shape of Water” interview.

This film flips the roles so the audience can realize that the true monsters are closed minded, the ones who don’t understand or have the patience to understand the other. My favorite point in the film is the climax, when Eliza and her best friend Giles (Richard Jenkins) are releasing Amphibian Man into the ocean. Strickland shows up to end the whole ordeal and get the creature back to the institute where they can dissect it. He shoots both the Amphibian Man and Eliza, and then the Amphibian man heals himself and goes over to Strickland.

“F… , you are a god,” Strickland says.

He comes to the conclusion that his close-minded, violent approach to the other got him nowhere.

The film shows various realities for so many in an absurd way. The protagonists all have qualities that are looked down on by the public. For example, Eliza Esposito (Sally Hawkins), the woman who falls in love with the amphibian man, is deaf. One of her two closest friends is gay, and the other African American. In the film, you see the discrimination they all face, explicitly and implicitly.

Esposito falls in love with the Amphibian Man while he is enduring vicious beatings by the film’s antagonist, and because of the violence toward him, he understands Eliza’s struggles, and Eliza knows not to fear the other. 

Eliza knows to cherish it.