The Shape of Water (film)

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The Shape of Water is a 2017 American dark fantasy drama film[3] directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. The film stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer, and follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who befriends a captured sea creature in 1961 Baltimore.

The film was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival and premiered on August 31, 2017,[4] where it was awarded the Golden Lion for best film in the competition.[5] It also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.[6] The Shape of Water received critical acclaim, with many critics declaring it del Toro's best film since Pan's Labyrinth[7] and particularly praising Hawkins's performance.[8]

The American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year.[9] The film received seven nominations for the 75th Golden Globe Awards: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actress – Drama for Hawkins, Best Supporting Actress for Spencer, Best Supporting Actor for Jenkins, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score.[10]

The Shape of Water had a December 1, 2017 limited release in two theaters in New York City before expanding in the United States on December 8, 2017.[11] A novel adaptation of film written by del Toro and Daniel Kraus will be released on February 27, 2018.[12]

The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Produced by
  • Guillermo del Toro
  • J. Miles Dale
Screenplay by
Story by Guillermo del Toro
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Dan Laustsen
Edited by Sidney Wolinsky
Double Dare You Productions
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • August 31, 2017 (Venice)
  • December 1, 2017 (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19.5 million[2]
Box office $1.6 million[3]


Elisa Esposito is a mousy, curious woman rendered mute by an injury she sustained as an infant. She works the night shift as a janitor at the Occam Aerospace Research Center in early 1960s Baltimore. One day, the facility receives a new "asset" discovered by the cruel and abusive Colonel Richard Strickland in the rivers of South America. After Elisa has a brief encounter with the Asset, which she discovers is an amphibian humanoid creature, she begins sneaking into the enclosure. Elisa spends time with the Asset, feeding him hard-boiled eggs and sharing music through records played on a portable turntable. Over time, the two become close.

Strickland's superior, General Hoyt, is interested in The Asset's biology and wants its body harvested to study for the advancement of space travel technology. One of the center's scientists, Robert Hoffstetler, who is actually a Soviet spy named Dmitri, pleads with Hoyt and Strickland to not kill the creature for the sake of further study. Robert is ignored, Elisa having eavesdropped the entire conversation. Unable to delay the Asset's procedure, Robert's superiors instruct him to euthanize the creature, preferring to disrupt American technological progress than enhancing their own.

Desperate and afraid, Elisa convinces her next-door neighbor, closeted commercial artist Giles to help break the Asset out on the day of its procedure. Meanwhile, as Robert is planning to execute his own plans, he discovers Elisa's plot to escape with the Asset, and resolves to help them. After Elisa runs into her talkative friend and co-worker Zelda, she is forced to reveal the Asset's existence to Zelda before escaping with help from Robert.

Elisa keeps the creature in her apartment bathtub, keeping him healthy and alive using chemicals provided by Robert. The next night, Strickland investigates both Elisa and Zelda, but quickly drops his suspicions due to their lowly titles. As Giles keeps watch over the Asset, he dozes off. It then kills and eats one of Giles' cats and, alarmed at being discovered, runs off, cutting Giles' arm with its claws in the process. After Elisa calms the Asset and brings him back, she and Giles both discover it can become luminescent when touched. The next morning, the once-balding Giles discovers his hair growing back and the cut on his arm completely healed. Elisa and the Asset make love for the first time.

Knowing the Asset needs to escape, Elisa plans to release it in a matter of days at a nearby canal: there will be few witnesses and he can swim over the wall when rainwaters flood the canal. Meanwhile, Hoyt threatens Strickland's livelihood if he does not recover the missing Asset within thirty-six hours. At the same time, Robert's superiors become suspicious that he did not kill the Asset as promised and hid him instead. Ominously, they spare Robert's life, telling him that he will be "extracted" in two days' time.

The date of the Asset's release comes. No longer able to provide the chemicals the Asset needs to survive, Elisa and Zelda both see its condition worsening, forcing them to act. Strickland decides to follow Robert to the rendezvous point with his two superiors. Before they can kill Robert, Strickland kills them first. His Soviet loyalties betrayed, Robert is tortured by Strickland into giving information about who captured the Asset. After Robert alludes to Elisa and Zelda, Strickland leaves him to succumb to his wounds. Strickland then enters Zelda's home, threatening her for more information, forcing her husband to reveal Elisa's culpability. Arriving at Elisa's apartment, Strickland finds the note on her calendar revealing her location.

As Elisa and Giles say their farewells to the Asset, Strickland arrives, punching Giles and shooting the Asset and Elisa. Giles manages to get the upper hand on Strickland while the Asset instantly heals his own gunshot wounds before slicing Strickland's throat with its claws. As Zelda and the police arrive at the scene, the Asset takes Elisa into the canal where he uses his abilities to heal Elisa's wounds and transform the scars on the side of her neck into gills, giving her the ability to breathe underwater, thus allowing them to be together forever.



The idea for The Shape of Water formed during del Toro's breakfast with Daniel Kraus in 2011, with whom he would later co-write the novel Trollhunters, del Toro said.[13] It shows similarities to the 2015 short film The Space Between Us,[14] also Rachel Ingalls' novel Mrs. Caliban. It was also primarily inspired by del Toro's childhood memories of seeing Creature from the Black Lagoon and wanting to see Gill-man get together with Julie Adams.[15] When del Toro was in talks with Universal to direct a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon, he tried pitching a version focused more on the creature's perspective where the Creature got the girl, but the studio executives rejected the concept.[16]

On March 17, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that a thriller film was in development from Guillermo del Toro which would star Octavia Spencer and which del Toro was writing and would produce and direct for Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film would be set in the Cold War era.[17] Michael Stuhlbarg joined the film's cast later in March.[18] On May 6, 2016, Michael Shannon joined the cast in a role opposite Sally Hawkins.[19] The title was speculated and then confirmed to be The Shape of Water.[20][21][22] In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, del Toro confirmed his frequent collaborator Doug Jones would play the creature in the film.[23]

Filming began on August 15, 2016[24][25][26] in Hamilton, Ontario[27] and wrapped on November 6, 2016.[28]

Alexandre Desplat is the composer of the film's score.[29]

In an interview with IndieWire about the film, del Toro said, "This movie is a healing movie for me... For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we're going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven."[30]


Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 95% based on 182 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best -- and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance."[31] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 86 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[32]

Ben Croll of IndieWire gave the film an "A" and called it "one of del Toro's most stunningly successful works, it's also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free."[33] Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising Hawkins' performance, the cinematography and del Toro's direction, saying: "Even as the film plunges into torment and tragedy, the core relationship between these two unlikely lovers holds us in thrall. Del Toro is a world-class film artist. There's no sense trying to analyze how he does it."[34]

The film won the Golden Lion at the 74th Venice Film Festival.[35]



  1. ^ "The Shape of Water". tiff. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  2. ^ "Spirit Awards: 'Call Me by Your Name,' 'Get Out' Soar, 'Shape of Water' Shunned Again". Variety. November 21, 2017. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "The Shape of Water (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  4. ^ "Venice Competition Includes Films From George Clooney, Guillermo del Toro, Darren Aronofsky". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  5. ^ "Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water wins Venice Golden Lion". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  6. ^ "Toronto Film Festival 2017 Unveils Strong Slate". Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved July 25, 2017.
  7. ^ Jessica Kiang (August 31, 2017). "Guillermo Del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' Is Sweet & Scary Movie Magic [Venice Review]". The Playlist. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  8. ^ Zack Sharf (August 31, 2017). "'The Shape of Water' Reviews Rave About Sally Hawkins' 'Once-in-a-Lifetime' Silent Performance". Indiewire. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  9. ^ "AFI Awards 2017". AFI. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  10. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (December 11, 2017). "Golden Globe Nominations: Complete List". Variety. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave. "Guillermo del Toro's 'Shape of Water' Gets Awards Season Release Date". Variety. Variety Media LLC. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
  12. ^ "The Shape of Water Novel Does Much, Much More Than Adapt the Movie". Gizmodo. December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
  13. ^ Guillermo del Toro [@RealGDT] (August 22, 2017). "Shape of Water- first birthed over a looong breakfast with @DanielDKraus in 2011. It shows next week at the Venice Film Festival" (Tweet). Retrieved August 25, 2017 – via Twitter.
  14. ^ "Is 'The Shape of Water' Cribbed Directly From the Short Film 'The Space Between Us'?". AwardsWatch. August 18, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  15. ^ "The Iconic Horror Movie Scene That Inspired 'The Shape of Water' - Bloody Disgusting". Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  16. ^ "Del Toro Talks Black Lagoon Influence On "Shape" - Dark Horizons". Retrieved November 20, 2017.
  17. ^ Kit, Borys (March 17, 2016). "Octavia Spencer in Talks for Guillermo del Toro's Latest Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  18. ^ "Guillermo del Toro Casts Michael Stuhlbarg". March 23, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  19. ^ Sneider, Jeff (May 6, 2016). "Michael Shannon to Star in Guillermo Del Toro's Cold War Love Story". TheWrap. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  20. ^ "Guillermo del Toro Movie Adds Richard Jenkins & a Merman". May 3, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  21. ^ Evry, Max (May 9, 2016). "Michael Shannon Joins Guillermo del Toro's New Film". Retrieved May 10, 2016.
  22. ^ Guillermo del Toro [@RealGDT] (2016-07-03). "Deliciously lazy Sunday. Tomorrow, leisure time is gone (!) we go back to The Shape of Water. First full-on week of pre-production!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  23. ^ "Guillermo Del Toro Talks 'Pan's Labyrinth' Musical Plans, 'Pacific Rim' 2 Casting, More".
  24. ^ Guillermo del Toro [@RealGDT] (10 Aug 2016). "We start shooting The Shape of Water on Monday. I will tweet some images now and then--" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  25. ^ Evry, Max (August 15, 2016). "Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro Begins Production". Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  26. ^ Guillermo del Toro [@RealGDT] (15 Aug 2016). "4 PM in Toronto. Started" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  27. ^ "Guillermo Del Toro's staff plan Hamilton visit to talk film studio locations: mayor". September 13, 2017. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  28. ^ Guillermo del Toro [@RealGDT] (7 Nov 2016). "Wrapped shooting on The Shape of Water last night!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  29. ^ "Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water Finds A Composer". December 27, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  30. ^ Jenna Marotta (2017-11-19). "Guillermo del Toro: 'The Shape of Water' Saved My Life". IndieWire. Retrieved 2017-12-10.
  31. ^ "The Shape of Water (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  32. ^ "The Shape of Water reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  33. ^ Ben Croll (August 31, 2017). "'The Shape of Water' Review: Guillermo del Toro's Lush Fairy Tale Is a Powerful Vision of Love". Indiewire. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  34. ^ Travers, Peter (November 27, 2017). "'The Shape of Water' Review: Guillermo del Toro's Girl-Meets-Monster Romance Is a Gem". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 28, 2017.
  35. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (September 9, 2017). "Venice Film Festival: Guillermo Del Toro's 'The Shape Of Water' Scoops Golden Lion – Full Winners List". Deadline. Retrieved September 9, 2017.

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