Oscars Challenge #22: The Shape of Water (2017) Movie Review
Romantic fantasy films more often than not are the ones you would not initially pick when it comes to winning the Best Picture. There are times that you would rather choose a war movie or a true story because it kind of depicts the importance of those stories to us.
The Shape of Water kind of crawled its way to win the 90th Academy Awards. It had to claw its way among tough contenders like Dunkirk, The Darkest Hour, and Get Out. I am not saying that it should not have won the award but rather glad because it deserved it.
The story begins with an infant Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who was abandoned by the side of the river. She was mute and communicates only using sign language. She had few friends and lives a very routine life and works in a secret lab facility as a cleaner. Meanwhile, in the facility she works, an amphibious human-like creature was captured by Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) and kept inside. One day, she stumbled upon the creature and the two formed a close bond. However, unbeknownst to Elisa, the creature was being used by the Americans to study and experiment with it. When they suddenly decided that they will euthanize it, Elisa frees the creature and kept it inside her apartment. Developing a romantic bond between the two of them, will she be able to keep it alive before the Colonel finds the creature and exterminate it?
First of all, a love story between a female protagonist and a non-human creature is nothing new. However, it exists in cartoons or anime and seldom in reality. The Shape of Water just did the unthinkable and somehow made it work beautifully.
This movie was inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). Which is very unlike this film because it is a horror flick. It was I believe the director, Guillermo del Toro's childhood movies, so it's kind of nice knowing that a really old film inspired him to make this masterpiece. Another fun fact is that the one who played The Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) played an almost similar role as Abe in the Hellboy franchise. And both that movie and the Shape Of Water were directed by the same person. Pretty astounding I must say.
For me, one of the main factors that really drove the movie is the characters. Sally Hawkins just played an Oscar-worthy role by playing a mute woman. Although she did not win, I still think she deserves the Best Actress award. Michael Shannon also played a very good villain and his overpowering presence really emanates whenever he is shown throughout the film. Not only that the support characters were wonderfully cast as well. You got Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, and many more notable mentions.
The way this film was shot was amazing as well. It really captures that old 1960s tone and vibe of the movie. There are a lot of scenes that were shot with minimum brightness which kind of transports me as to what the character of Elisa feels throughout the film. I am very glad that this wasn't filmed in black-and-white because it would not really show the emotion the scenes bring to the audience.
Not every scene is perfectly wonderful. There are some points in the film that is boring or may be unnecessary but nevertheless, it all worked out in the end and that's what matters most.
Then again the majestic feeling of the movie really boils down to the perspective of beauty and a sense of belonging. Elisa's character is mute and struggles to blend in the society which is also the case for the Amphibian Man who although not hostile, is being treated as one. The two of them find solace with one another because both of them were seeking something that you call a safe space. But that is not easily granted to both of them because of those who seek power and dominance. I think that even though the movie's timeline happened around the 1960s, it kind of felt very relatable even today.
The question at the end of the day still is, does this film deserve to win the 90th Academy Awards considering that it had very tough competitors? My quick answer is, it does. I think The Shape Of Water can bring more inspiration to other directors both veterans and aspiring ones to level up their game in case they want to make a sure-hit award-winning fantasy film. They can definitely learn a lot from this movie.
So yeah I think this film is a must-watch and a definite winner but I respect those who will say that other films deserve the prestigious award.
A 4 out of 5 stars for me.