The Shape of Water (or The Best Film of 2017) / by Louis Holstein

The Shape of Water, where do I begin? Just when I thought I wasn't going to see a timeless film in 2017, Guillermo Del Toro comes with the best film of his caree. I cannot say I went in with incredibly high expectations, as I am not the biggest Del Toro fan. I find the worlds he builds to be too gruesome and the stories he tells too dark. And while there are certaily gruesome and dark elements to this story, the overall resolve left me feeling more whole than empty.

I will spare you the details concerning the premise, and honestly, if you have not seen the film maybe you should skip this post for now. It's important to know as little as you can about the film before seeing it, for it to have the greatest impact. 

Still reading? Great. From the first scene, Del Toro focuses on the details. From Elisa's daily routine to the red shoes in the window of the local shoe store. He shoots the film so meticulously that you know every little element shown will indeed have a payoff and be intertwined together in the end. I loved how Del Toro built the world of the 1960s without it ever becomeing preachy. He touches on homophobia, misogyny, and racism and all to ask the question: what does it mean to be human? These horrors were so common place in the time that it allows us to look in 2017 at the hypocrocies in our own lives. Are we getting better at being human?

I have never seen a film with a mute character, much less one that handles them so delicately and beautifully. Elisa cannot talk and therefore she cannot add to society in the same way others can- does this make her less human? It's heartbreaking to even think that is a question! As the film progresses, however, it's clear that this question, no matter how heartbreaking, must be asked. The answer speaks to us now. We are human because we love. Love always wins.

As could be predicted, the acting is top notch. Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer leads the cast with, Michael Shannon, and Richard Jenkins. All are at the top of their game. I truly believe Shannon is a very underrated actor, maybe he will gain some traction in this award season. The star of the show, however, is none other than the film's lead, Sally Hawkins. She is truly in a career-defining role as the mute Elisa Esposito. There is a scene where Elisa is passionatly pleading her case (the desire to remove the Sea Monster from the labratory) to Jenkins character, Giles, which is in and of itself worthy of an Oscar nomination! I'm certinaly crossing my fingers for her. And not only her, but Del Toro himself. This film should easily land a Best Picture nom, followed by a Best Director nom. This, as I have said, is his best work to date. He is a master storyteller and (for me anyway) the go-to guy for fairytales on screen. Can we see him adapt The Little Mermaid!?

At any rate, you know a film has moved you when you are getting in the car, digesting it verbally with your friend and begin to cry. Ha! That was me and my wife. I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface of what The Shape of Water has to offer, I can not wait to see it again and allow it to speak to me in new ways. This is what makes a film timeless, and I truly belive The Shape of Water is just that.*


*As a follower of The Way, I must advise that you use caution when approaching this film. It is very violent and gruesome, sexual and borderline pornogrpahic. It's important you understand that going into the film and even ask the Lord if this is a piece of cinema that would be helpful for you. While I do think this film comunicates truth, there are certainly pieces that will not be helpful for everyone.