I feel compelled to write a brief review of “The Shape Of Water” in response to the awful review it got in The Times today. I saw it last night and as it’s been out for a while, I didn’t think I needed to add my thoughts, but Kevin Maher’s review will put you off going. Which is a shame. Because I think you should GO AND SEE IT. My son thought it was “SO WEIRD”. I thought the “visually ravishing fantasy romance” was brilliant and deserves all 13 nominations for Academy Awards and 12 BAFTA’s.
Beautifully curated and fairytale like, it is essentially a very basic love story between two misunderstood beings. It brings a message of hope, diversity, inclusivity and love at a time where we surely all need it. Yes, it presents America as a decrepit, destructive behemoth with no moral decency and yes, there is some blood. Quite a lot actually, it was more violent and dark than I anticipated, but it’s just so enjoyable and different.
It’s a bit complicated, but the basic message is clear. That love shines through and that is the essence of the film. Sally Hawkins as Elisa, the mute cleaner is spectacular. She portrays everything she needs to say in her quirky little face without having to say a word. Her best friend, when she’s not at work – a much older failing artist/advertising man is a brilliant support, as is Zelda (Octavia Spencer) as her protective best friend at work.
The Times review says this film is only for “the easily amused, the blank and the fawning”. How rude. Clearly he’s missed the subtle nuances and the sweeping, beautiful creativity and everything else in between.
Guirllermo Del Toro has a strange mind, there is no doubt and has been dreaming of this film since childhood. I think he’s managed to create something beautifully dark in his magical realism. There is humour and tension amidst the good and evil. Everyone already knows it’s about a strange sea creature (a God?) scooped up from South America and dumped into a Baltimore research lab and beaten by government agent Richard Strickland (played brilliantly to present pure evil by Michael Shannon, complete with overt sexual harassment and mistreatment of his staff and his wife and children, with a predilection towards having sex with women who are silent). The fish man is splendid to observe, a fine specimen with fish eyes that help us believe that he’s not just a man in a codpiece.
Elisa has a routine every morning which involves masturbating in the bath whilst her eggs are boiling (I assume she likes them suitably hard boiled). I only mention this because The Times review comments on Del Toro making this “a feminist thing and symbolising her primal power”, topped off with “because if you’re going to take away her voice and make her winsome, doe-eyed, romantically obsessed and servile and a bit kooky and annoying, it’s important that you make her good at wanking. Yay – go, Time’s Up! You show ’em how it’s done, girl.”
Honestly, how childish is that paragraph?
And by the way, whilst I have no problem with her morning enjoyment in the bath, she was hardly showing us how it was done. Far too frantic and ridiculous with water splashing everywhere. More symbolic, than realistic.
He goes onto say that “it’s riddled with annoying inconsistencies and plot holes”. WHO CARES?? IT’S ABOUT A BLOODY FISH MAN so it’s hardly true to life in the first place. We are not going to believe it’s real, so don’t worry about plot. Worry about the characters. Worry about the beautiful cinematography and the love. Worry about the love.
Once you’ve left your critical mind at home, feel free to sit back and enjoy the show. I for one will not be surprised if it wins an Oscar and it is not “shapeless, drippy Oscar bait”.
Far from it.