The Shape of Water Reviews
Elisa Esposito, Sally Hawkins, is a mute woman who works as a janitor at a Government laboratory and lives above a movie theatre with her closeted gay friend Giles, Richard Jenkins. One day an amphibian man, Doug Jones, is brought into the facility by Richard Strickland, Michael Shannon, who they intend to study and use to get an advantage in the space race. Unbeknownst to Strickland his fellow employee at the facility, Robert Hoffstetler, Michael Stuhlbarg, is a Russian spy who has sympathies for the amphibian man despite the orders he receives. Elisa and the amphibian man fall in love and she attempts to save him from Strickland's wrath.
Shannon is perfectly cast as the villain, Strickland, who is easily the most interesting character in the movie. His menacing features and droll, intimidating delivery of his lines convince you that he is utterly evil and completely willing to take down anybody who stands in his way. His relationship to sexuality is fascinating as his relations with his wife are clearly more about having power than being very attracted to one another and his awkward attempt to proposition Elisa into having a sexual relationship, "I could make you squeal", shows how vulnerable he can be. Towards the end of the film he appears almost asexual as his only motivation is to maintain his status through murdering the amphibian man but it could also be interpreted as him believing that he is sexually inferior to him and wants to eliminate the obstacles to Elisa's affections.
Jenkins is also a lovely presence as Elisa's closest friend and he manages to be whimsical and wonderful but also heartbreaking as he faces the prejudices of the 1960s. His attempts to flirt with a waiter who sells pie, which he is shown to dislike as many unfinished slices are left in the fridge, end in tragedy as when the waiter discovers that he is gay he angrily rebukes him and tells him to leave "a family establishment." His bond with Elisa seems genuine and their quiet nights spent together eating pie and watching classic films produce some of the best moments in the film. Jenkins was fully deserving of his Best Supporting Actor nomination and although he's not on the level of Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project (2017) he was better than Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017).
The only real issues I had with the film were that it dragged at times with the scenes of Hoffstetler corresponding with his Russian superiors felt overly long and clichÃ (C). The film is only 2 hours but it felt like 3 and I wanted something more out of the time. The romance also became a little treacly sweet for me at times as the sex scenes were entertaining enough but again, overly long. My complaints aren't huge but they really stopped the film from being a 10 out of 10 for me and lowered it into the category of good but not great.
2017 was a great year for cinema and for Best Picture nominees, with the exception of Darkest Hour (2017), which unfortunately means I don't believe this is deserving of Best Picture. My choice would have been Lady Bird (2017) but this is still a nice film featuring two great actors giving good performances in interesting roles and it's definitely worth watching with your parents even if you are uncomfortable with the graphic nudity.