Is “The Shape of Water” worth the Oscar hype?


courtesy of IMDb

Trevor Tyle, Campus Editor

It’s a good year to be Guillermo del Toro. The widely celebrated filmmaker has received critical acclaim, a Golden Globe for Best Director and 13 Oscar nominations all in one month, and all for one film—“The Shape of Water.”

I wish I could say there was a reason why I didn’t review “The Shape of Water” when it was released last month. I wish I could say I gave it the attention it deserved before the mainstream success it experienced amidst its award show hype.

But the truth of the matter is that I simply could not bring myself to watch the film, knowing that, if I liked it, I would hate myself even more for passing on the opportunity to interview Mr. del Toro earlier this year.

And I was right.

“The Shape of Water” is strangely beautiful, incredibly powerful and, above all, simply captivating.

Set during the Cold War in the 1960s, the film tells the story of Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who lives a life of solitude, sans the companionship of her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Elisa and Zelda work as janitors in a secret government laboratory, where they uncover a sea creature of sorts (Doug Jones) that the government wants for experimental purposes.

Elisa communicates with the “Amphibian Man” through sign language, her sole means of conversing with others, and they quickly form a bond. Upon discovering the government’s plans for the creature, Elisa devises a plan to free him with the help of her friends and a Russian spy (Michael Stuhlbarg) posing as a doctor within the facility. Her struggle to protect him from being recaptured by the evil Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) only becomes more difficult when she develops romantic feelings for the creature.

In some ways, “The Shape of Water” feels like “Beauty and the Beast” meets “E.T.” But to limit its capacity to the storylines of other successful films would be criminal. “The Shape of Water” is innovative and breathtaking, adding new layers of depth to a vaguely familiar story formula.

Hawkins’ performance in particular is marvelous. The empathy audiences will feel toward her character leaves a truly special emotional resonance at the film’s conclusion, making her Best Actress nomination at this year’s Oscars all the more satisfying. Jenkins and Spencer are equally brilliant as her courageous cohorts, making their respective Best Supporting Actor and Actress nods just as exciting.

The remarkable talents of the cast are matched only by del Toro’s impeccable storytelling skills. He rather distinctively makes the film true to himself as a director and writer, while still creating a powerful story that will move audiences in a way that so few films can nowadays.

From a cinematographic perspective, the film is visually stunning in every possible way. It frequently uses various shades of green to emphasize the film’s symbolic undertones—and rather brilliantly, I might add. Meanwhile, Alexandre Desplat’s gorgeous score further elevates the film to Best Picture worthiness.

“The Shape of Water” far exceeds some of its Oscar competitors. From the compelling storyline, packed with an emotional punch that will evoke tears of both joy and sorrow, to the spellbinding acting and direction, this film is a poetic masterpiece more than worthy of every Oscar nomination it received.

It still feels difficult to articulate just how glorious this film is. No review will ever do it the justice of witnessing it with your own eyes.

“Water” is shaping up to be what is truly one of the most beautiful films in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of being immersed.

Rating: 5/5 stars