The Shape of Water

Film, Fantasy
3 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(14user reviews)
The Shape of Water

Sally Hawkins shines in a fantasy for fans of Guillermo del Toro's romantic streak.

Reliably, director Guillermo del Toro’s mind goes to squishy, sexual places. He’s a true voluptuary, not just the guy behind those bony creatures from 'Pan’s Labyrinth' but also, per last year’s Crimson Peak', a believer in grand, melodramatic flourishes. Del Toro’s latest, the tremblingly romantic 'The Shape of Water', should be an orgasmic flood for his fans, who want their fantasies served with a side of adultness. If you can imagine an aggressively adorable (and somewhat effortful) version of 'Amélie' in which our hero sleeps with 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon', then you'll totally be feeling this.

It’s 1962 and Elisa (Sally Hawkins, delivering a flow of enraptured expressions) is a mute loner who works – somewhat improbably – in a secret government facility in Baltimore. (Go with it.) Even though Del Toro hammers you over the head with every green-hued retro detail, try to stay focused on Elisa. She loves watching musicals on her tiny TV, and she adores her closeted gay neighbour, an illustrator named Giles (Richard Jenkins, also the film’s narrator). Basically, though, her life is empty, until a metal tank is wheeled into her office, containing an organism that could be a 'god,' a merman or an alien. Made of sinewy muscles and quivering scales (he’s performed, balletically, by del Toro regular Doug Jones), it turns out this 'asset' is actually Elisa’s Romeo, and – as she starts to flirt with the mystery man, feeding him hard-boiled eggs and pressing up against the glass – 'The Shape of Water' floats to a magical place of perfect bliss.

That’s the part that works gorgeously – their weird mutual attraction and Alexandre Desplat’s murky underwater score – and I don’t know if I have the heart to say that everything else is a little stiff. As sophisticated as del Toro can be in blending the supernatural with the sexy (the eroticism here will catch you off guard), this film’s Cold War intrigue plays like a high schooler’s book report. Scowling Michael Shannon embodies yet another meanie: a brutal husband and government agent who stands in the way of blooming love. Russians skulk; paranoia looms; there are tense showdowns in diners that evoke harsh Civil Rights–era realities. This political layer doesn’t feel earned. Didn’t del Toro realise that interspecies romance with an illegal alien would be timely enough? Regardless, don’t let this overly lacquered context keep you away. 'The Shape of Water' is a movie of too many ideas. For that reason alone, it drinks like a bottomless glass of velvety wine.

By: Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Release date:
Wednesday February 14 2018
123 mins

Cast and crew

Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Sally Hawkins
Richard Jenkins
Michael Stuhlbarg
Octavia Spencer
Michael Shannon

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
2 people listening
This film has many "Amelie" like features such as a whimsical soundtrack and a fairytale cinematic look. It's an interesting story and sweet in places. Whilst Strickland is suitably nasty and increasingly psychotic. Eliza's daydream of singing and dancing is really quite creative. A love story with a difference and a dark side -  it definitely has del Toro's style all over it. Very entertaining and very cool.

Ooh I love me a bit of Guillermo Del Toro weirdness and this definitely fits the standard bill. The film, in a nutshell, tells the story of a mute, sweet looking 'Amelie' esque looking lady who falls in love with, um, a river monster being kept in a facility. Unusual? Very. Believable? Certainly not, but it's beautiful anyway. I loved the sense of strong foreboding throughout and the love scenes as they get to know each other were actually really, really touching. 

I'd certainly watch it again and recommend that others do too.


I wouldn't be exaggerating if I would say this is now one of my favourite films of all time.

Captivating, beautifully shot and with brilliant acting - it delivers exactly what it promises: a fantasy love story.


To an absolute shock and horror of my workmates, I absolutely loved The Shape of Water. Before watching, you need to remember a few things:

1. It is fantasy

2. It is unconventional 

3. It is a love story

You can't watch this movie and think "this is impossible", because all of it is quite far-fetched, hence the fantasy genre. Once you've accepted the quirk of this movie, it is the best movie I've seen this year and potentially one of my favourite Oscar Winning movies. 

The movie beautifully highlights the loneliness experienced by anyone who is different from the norm in our society.


Shape of Water will always be viewed within the lens of being the Best Picture winner and it's a fairly worthy winner. It is part magical fantasy, part horror (without alienating anyone) Sally Hawkins is fantastic as the mute cleaner who develops an affection for a mystical creature being housed in a military laboratory. The cinematography is wonderful, with a green hue to almost every scene. The violence ratchets up as the film escalates but it retains its almost fairytale-like quality.


Not Oscar-worthy in my opinion, but it did hold my interest as the love story develops between what is essentially the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the mute cleaning lady at a top-secret government facility. This movie reminds me of the French movie Delicatessen mixed with Hellboy, with some great art direction and some brooding performances from the cast. More 'arthouse' than you might be used to from director Guillermo Del Toro. 


There are a lot of things to like about this film, the cinematography is stunning, the soundtrack is beautiful and Sally Hawkins is just excellent. Overall it just didn't give me the feelings that I expected to get and I found the monster moved in a far too human way to be believable as a 'merman' or God like creature. I shouldn't compare as they are two completely different films, but as we are in Oscar season, I just preferred Three Billboards.

Like all of Del Toro's works 'SOW' is a lovingly crafted film, if you like Del Toro's style then you will like this film. If you are looking for depth or something away from the mainstream then maybe this is not for you.....fine performances, lovely camerawork. Del Toro offers intelligence & history but all his films only flirt with them. I found myself wanting Capra or Zemeckis instead. 


This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. From the first second to the last, there isn’t a single scene that hasn’t been tenderly painted into life by visionary director Guillermo del Toro and the love that he has for his work, his monsters & his fairy-tales is palpable, relentlessly throbbing out from the screen towards you like a hugely enamoured beating heart.

A tale as old as time but with far less animated household objects, ‘The Shape of Water’ is a romance, a love story between Elisa, a mute woman who falls in love with Amphibian Man, the newest source of fear & curiosity in the 1950’s government run facility where she works. Elisa may not speak but she hears everything and sound, including as the score that sweeps you along for most of the movie, plays a huge role in the overall impact of the film. A hallway tap dance, a sofa-bound soft shoe shuffle, a glorious song & dance number…these are all moments within it that hark back, sometimes unexpectedly, to the glorious days of MGM musicals.

Sally Hawkins’ Elisa and Octavia Spencer’s Zelda are wonderful. Both are modern women living in a pre-modernity period, both missing something but missing nothing at the same time. Hawkins is not stereotypically beautiful but has a gorgeously watchable and completely normal face & figure, both of which allow for much more empathy than if she looked like yet another lollipop-headed Hollywood twiglet. Her relationships with the three principal male characters of the story are all exactly how you’d wish yours to be were you to find yourself in her position; defiant & unafraid against the story’s real monster, the always sadistically brilliant Michael Shannon, caring & funny with her best friend, toupee wearer & ongoing eater of cinema’s most luminous key lime pie Richard Jenkins and touching & passionate with Doug Jones, whose elegant, lithe & athletic movements on screen are simultaneously awe-inspiring and heart-breaking. Slow hand clap to the hair, makeup & design teams who, in Amphibian Man, have created someone so beautiful, you forgot fairly early on that he doesn’t look like you or I.

There’s a suggested hint of ‘Creature from The Black Lagoon’ and a definite touch of ‘Splash’ in ‘The Shape of Water’, both homages paid sensitively and with charm. The sub-plot of Russia vs the US for the space race and the Cold War adds a nice extra dimension of story-telling but the personal, funny & honest moments are never lost.

This is a film unlike anything else that’s currently in the cinema and it’s a step on for del Toro, whose back catalogue already reads like an almanac of all things fantastical, terrifying but ultimately very very human in both the best and worst ways. Full of heart and horror and reassuringly justice, it’s a slice of cinema to take you away from the world we live in and what an honour to be allowed a few hours of living in the universe of Guillermo.

I guess 3 stars goes out for the fantastic cinematography,  even though the obvious reference to all of  Jean-Pierre Jeunet´s movies City of the Lost Children, Amelie. Both the flawless visuals and the editing with the music as part of the movement  was done beautifully. Excellent acting and casting  but the story is a real fail, Nothing to say, what a simple bland story. It seems like a movie for a very young crowd that doesn't really have the heroes a young crowd need ei: The Goonies.  Really unimpressed and though the cinematography works as part of the script wonderfully, nothing new so not really anything to be worth staying inside of the viewer. 

I have only seen two of director Guillermo del Toro’s previous movies, ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, both of which combine grim goings-on in the Spanish Civil War with weird happenings and other ghostly phenomena.

Here we have a similar combination set in ‘50s USA when an odd South American fish creature with humanoid features is shipped into a secret military laboratory. It has enough superhuman abilities to interest the  dastardly Russky spies. The Cold War was at its height at the time, of course.

Sally Hawkins delivers one of her best ever performances as a humble mute cleaner at the lab who is more than kind to the creature and there are plenty of other sub-plots rumbling along.

Superb  cinematography helps suspend ones disbelief and there is a towering  effort from Michael Shannon playing an evil security officer with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever (boos and hisses). 

The film has garnered many award nominations and if you let yourself go along with the preposterous unlikeliness of the whole shebang it is a most agreeable and well-spent couple of hours.


I personally really enjoyed this movie. You have to let your mind go with the film slightly as some of the plot was slightly far-fetched, but it was enjoyable all the same. Sally Hawkins was an absolute joy to watch as the mute Elisa, expressing even the most difficult and engaging emotions without speaking once. It was absolutely beautiful to look at - the lighting and grade is definitely something to appreciate. The Shape of Water is a watch that will surely make you leave the cinema smiling and feeling up-lifted. 

Although not all of it totally works, teetering on the brink of silliness at times, this film is carried off with such attention to detail and luscious production that I just have to give it 4 stars. It is suggested that the creature may have come from Brazil - clearly del Toro is aware of the merman legend of the Tupi Indians that is a popular myth across South America, and there are interesting allusions throughout to colonial brutality and racism. Nice to hear (and see) a bit of Carmen Miranda too. Michael Shannon is fantastic on screen - he just has the most amazing face. A flawed film no doubt, but very hard not to be enchanted by it...


I was fortunate enough to watch a special preview viewing of this movie last night and what I will say is that..... I really liked it. It's weird and unusual however, Guillermo del torro has never been a simple guy. His productions have always been wonderfully twisted.

This movie is an unconventional love story and it highlights the issues within mankind's society... from ignorance to aggression.

The make up artists Guillermo uses for his productions are extremely talented and honestly it all looked so so real to me.

It is emotional and we'll enacted. I personally loved it.