Graphic Novel (Film) Review 161/365: The Shape of Water

As most of you know, I teach the Film & Literature class at my high school.  I love it.  And one of the reasons that I love it is that it gives me an excuse to watch more films!  And luckily, one of my Christmas Day traditions is going to the movies with my wife and mom.  Today was no different.  We went to see Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water.

I’ve reviewed a couple of films here on this 365 blog quest.  I need to switch it up sometimes, and film reviews seem to be the most logical transition with the whole visual literacy and all…

Rated “R,” I would not show this full film in my classroom.  There is a good deal of nudity and sex.  But that’s not to say that I wouldn’t show a few clips.  Del Toro does some amazing things in this film, and small clips will be worth showing.

The Shape of Water is about a mute woman named Eliza Esposito, played by Sally Hawkins, that works as a custodian at a government facility.  She quickly discovers that a “dangerous” humanoid water-creature is being housed and experimented on at the facility, and she makes it her mission to help the creature.

The cast of characters is top-notch: Michael Shannon plays Richard Strickland the bad-dude military antagonist; Richard Jenkins plays Giles, Eliza’s charismatic painter neighbor; and Octavia Spencer plays Zelda Fuller, Eliza’s cleaning partner and close friend.

The music, lighting, and dialogue feel like Classic Hollywood reborn.  As the film opens, I felt as if I were watching a film done by a grown-up Wes Anderson.  That’s not an insult to Wes Anderson.  I love the youthful feel of Anderson’s films; the opening of this film felt as magical without all the quirk.  And I do feel that Anderson captures classic straight-forward film making (with his own spin of course), and The Shape of Water did that but in a more mature way.  There is even one scene that is literally a nod to classic black and white big budget productions, and while I was nervous that it was going to be cringe-worthy, it ended up being beautiful and brilliantly filmed/edited.

Don’t get me wrong.  This movie isn’t all fun and fancy.  There are moments of pure gore and blood.  Like a couple of the scenes from Pan’s Labyrinth, you might find yourself looking away for a moment or two.  But those are some of the moments where Del Toro puts his stamp on the film.  And the colors are not as striking as Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, but they are bold, and they are artfully done.

People like to grade films, I guess, I don’t know…so if I were to grade this film, let’s say A-.  See it, tell me what you think, and I can tell you about the minor issues I had with it.  But very minor.  I really enjoyed this.

Merry Christmas!

Happy reading (watching)!


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