Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a sucker for fairy-tales (the Grimm variety or Oscar Wilde, not Disney) and impossible loves (think Edward Scissorhands and Kim), so of course I’d fall in love with Guillermo Del Toro’s lush fairy-tale of a love story, The Shape of Water.
The movie opens with the audience getting to meet Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives in a tiny apartment alone above a theatre house, next door to the lonely artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). Due to working as a cleaning lady for a government laboratory in Baltimore, Elisa’s “day” begins at night, working the so-called “graveyard shift” with co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer).
Most of her days are the same, until one night a new test subject is brought into the lab, a revered River God from South America dubbed the “Amphibian Man” (Doug Jones) for being a cross between a man and sea creature. Elisa feels compassion for the Amphibian Man and is saddened that the creature’s handler Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) has no interest in getting to know the creature and instead, tortures it daily without mercy
Elisa feels drawn to the Amphibian Man because, like her, he is different. She also feels compelled to him because they’re both lonely, invisible beings to society, and decides to initiate a friendship with the creature through egg lunches and sharing of jazz music. But when learns that the government is only interested in killing the Amphibian Man rather than trying to learn more about him, she’s overcome with grief and hatches a plan to get him out of the heavily surveyed government lab with the help of Giles and Zelda.
The beauty of the film is that it brought together four characters that represented “invisible” and alienated people. Elisa is invisible for being mute, Zelda is invisible for being a woman of color in 1962, Giles is invisible for being a gay starving artist, and the Amphibian Man is invisible because he isn’t even deemed as human. All four characters suffer from loneliness and are aching for some kind of human contact that will make them feel alive again and complete. Before meeting the Amphibian Man, Elisa was merely existing, but once her feelings for him begin to blossom and are reciprocated, that’s when she begins to truly live.
Del Toro’s visually stunning movie ignited the bleak atmosphere of the Cold War and cruelty with the spark of love and how colourful everything begins to be when one is in love. He also masterfully reminded us that sometimes it’s the lesser important people who become the heroes of the story when they feel they have a purpose.
The Shape of Water is a touching love story of how two very radically different people (they’re not even the same species!) are brought together and how their love overcomes all the obstacles. This movie is truly a celebration of the Latin quote, Amor vincit omnia (Love conquers all). And in today’s complacent, superficial modern society where everything is disposable, even love, it’s refreshing to be reminded that some things are worth fighting for.
By: Azzurra Nox