Movie Review: The Shape of Water


American fantasy drama, ‘The Shape of Water’, directed by Guillermo del Toro, follows a mute cleaner called Elisa, portrayed by English actress Sally Hawkins, who also starred in Submarine (alongside Craig Roberts), Happy-Go-Lucky and Made in Dagenham, who falls in love with a mysterious amphibious creature, portrayed by Doug Jones. Set in Baltimore in 1962, Elisa works as a cleaner for a high-security government lab, along with her friend Zelda (portrayed by Octavia Spencer). One day, while at work, scientists reveal a creature they have found in the swamps – their plan being to experiment and learn about this amphibious specimen. Elisa takes an interest in the amphibian creature and they begin communicating through sign language. Their bond blossoms and the two quickly fall in love.

Elisa doesn’t appear to have a lot of friends, the only two being her neighbour, Giles, and Zelda. This appears to be due to the fact she is mute. People don’t seem to understand her and this slightly isolates her from society. In comparison, this is how the creature is portrayed, being seen as a scientific experiment rather than a living being. This isolation and loneliness is what brings both characters together in their evolving love story. The premise behind this improbable fantasy story is peculiar, to say the least. However, I found myself becoming immersed within the narrative a lot more than I did when I first read the synopsis. When I left the cinema, I discovered no questions were left unanswered, no sub-plot left open, this wonderfully shot, fantasy romance provided all elements of storytelling, along with a satisfying ending.


The film itself is a work of art by del Toro, the strong introduction and development of Elisa’s character is what draws us into the journey she is taking. Elisa has a sweet father-daughter relationship with her neighbour, Giles, they both live alone but share each others company, and enjoy it. Their relationship develops throughout the film and portrays the bond between them. At one point, Giles says that he find Elisa is the only person he can talk to, even though she doesn’t say much. Sally Hawkins’ promise far from sacked, even with her lack of dialogue, every action moved the narrative along and, as an audience, we felt every emotion with her through Hawkins’ splendid performance.

All characters within the film develop well, except for Richard Strickland who remains an evil narcissist throughout the entire film, becoming seemingly more unstable towards the final act. With a detachment from his own family and convey zero emotion, other than anger/violence, throughout the own flick (not even when making love to his wife), he is the representation of evil.

The only people within the film world who Elisa was able to communicate with and who were able to communicate with her, were Giles and her friend Zelda, who also worked as a cleaner in the government laboratory, so the unexpected romance, between human and fish, blossomed through both their inability to communicate with others, but the ability to communicate with each other, and share an understanding – an unspoken bond that only they share.


Although I enjoyed the film, there were elements of the plot that, I personally felt, were implemented and exaggerated in order to move the plot forward, for example, allowing the cleaners to be inside one of the laboratories while unveiling a highly secretive creature, to be exploited and experimented upon. In a facility, such as the one depicted in ‘The Shape of Water’, I would imagine the cleaners would not be allowed near a creature such as this, especially since it could also be highly dangerous to them.

With great pace, the film seemed to move swimmingly, and every aspect added a new, budding flavour – nothing felt sour or pointless. The 1960s aesthetic was portrayed well through the stunning cinematography, mise-en-scene and set/costume design, and this all enhanced the realism of the film. The altered colour grading differentiated the settings, from when she was at home to when she was at work. The blue/green tones depicted a cooler environment, where she was less safe compared to the neutral, warm tones of when she was at home. The blue/green tones also portray the water and the amphibious creature she falls in love with.

The more I think about the film, the more I realise how much I enjoyed watching it. It is sweet and sexy with brief sadness, the bizarre love story between human and fish makes this film unique, and also adds another way of portraying the “boy meets girl” movie trope. This is more than just a love story; ‘The Shape of Water’ conveys, to me, a story of strong woman who doesn’t allow her inability to speak to stand in the way of what she wants. Elisa is an incredibly strong female character that develops further through her peculiar romantic relationship with an amphibious specimen. Guillermo del Toro takes a uniquely unrealistic concept and crafts it in such a way, it becomes oddly believable.

Rating: 8/10 


-Molly xo

*Disclaimer: All opinions are my own, some may not agree with what I have said or my rating but that is my personal thoughts on the film. Film’s are all down to interpretation and I appreciate not everyone will feel the same way as I did about this film.

Also, the images used are not my own and borrowed from the film, etc! All rights reserved!*



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