The Shape of Water is a 2017 American dark fantasy drama film 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, where it was awarded the Golden Lion for best film in the competition. It also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. The Shape of Water received critical acclaim, with many critics declaring it del Toro's best film since Pan's Labyrinth and particularly praising Hawkins's performance.
The American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year. 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.
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. A novel adaptation of film written by del Toro and Daniel Kraus will be released on February 27, 2018.
|The Shape of Water|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Guillermo del Toro|
|Story by||Guillermo del Toro|
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Sidney Wolinsky|
Double Dare You Productions
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Box office||$1.6 million|
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. It shows similarities to the 2015 short film The Space Between Us, 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. 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.
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. Michael Stuhlbarg joined the film's cast later in March. On May 6, 2016, Michael Shannon joined the cast in a role opposite Sally Hawkins. The title was speculated and then confirmed to be The Shape of Water. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, del Toro confirmed his frequent collaborator Doug Jones would play the creature in the film.
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."
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." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 86 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
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." 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."