The Shape of Water: A Dark Fantasy Film

 The monsters in this film don’t have gills.

Once again, and by his own words, director Guillermo del Toro has delivered us a fairy tale. The most intimate film yet by the director, its R rating is not just for the violence and language. The Shape of Water is at its core is about communication. More importantly the denial of communication. It is about those who are denied a voice, who must hide who they truly are, whose heads go down in false respect, fear, and whose voices are silenced by power, racism, bigotry, and misogyny.

friendsIt is a story of friendship and love, and it is a story of magic and of hatred. Once again, and by his own words, directory Guillermo del Toro has delivered us a fairy tale. Those of us that have longed for a story with the power and intensity of Pan’s Labyrinth have been rewarded for our patience once more. Be sure and watch the trailer below in case you missed it.


The subjects addressed are brutal and realistic truth alongside the impossible. Something Guillermo del Toro does exceedingly well. Del Toro set the film during the 1960s Cold War era to counteract today’s heightened tensions, specifying,“if I say once upon a time in 1962, it becomes a fairy tale for troubled times. People can lower their guard a little bit more and listen to the story and listen to the characters and talk about the issues, rather than the circumstances of the issues.”



“This movie is a healing movie for me. … For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we’re going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven.”  IndieWire


images (2)In muted watery tones and alternating jarring brightness, the film shows us the lonely life of Elisa Esposito. A cleaning woman at Occam Aerospace Research Center. Elisa is mute, her only voice to the world outside has been her friend and coworker Zelda, and her next door neighbor, Giles, a struggling middle aged painter. She is captivating, sorrowful, and full of small surprises that have us halfway in love with her before the end of the first 10 minutes of the film.

All the main characters are isolated in their own way and struggle to make themselves heard. Zelda is Elisa’s loyal friend at work, who looks after her unfailingly, and is her stoic protector whenever she can be. Giles is Elisa’s confidant, and they share their love of movie musicals while Elisa efficiently moves through a mundane existance governed by the clock. Until the “Asset” arrives at the facility and Elisa finds she can think of little else after her first frightened glimpse of him.images

This is point where we meet Colonel Richard Strickland, the captor and tormentor of the amphibian man. As Elisa grows bolder in seeking an understanding with the captive, Col. Strickland becomes more and more despicable and disgusting with every turn. Yet, even this villian is not at the top of the food chain outside of the facility, and must answer to higher powers and are themselves pawns. Strickland the Russian spies with which he unknowingly vies for the possession or destruction of the creature, show us the cruelty of the world that help make them the monsters they are. You may find yourself enjoying how much you will despise them.

Speaking to Newsweek Magazine , del Toro is quoted as saying, “What scares me as an adult man is the way ideology can divide us,” del Toro says. “When you reduce a person to a single word, that makes it easier to hurt them or ignore them. We are polychrome beings, not just one thing. Whether it’s an immigration thing, or a gender thing, or just a power thing…hate can only breed without understanding.”

“People say I’m a genre filmmaker, and I say yes, my own genre. I’m not interested in working in a single lane. I’ll write a fairy tale in a fascist postwar space or a ghost story in Civil War Spain (The Devil’s Backbone) or a story about a vampire in middle-class Mexico (Cronos). The sci-fi and fantasy novelist Theodore Sturgeon said 90 percent of everything science fiction is crud because 90 percent of everything is crud. That’s Sturgeon’s law. Well, del Toro’s law is that 10 percent of everything is great.”

In response to whether his amphibian tale is a horror film, he and well as anyone who has seen it will tell you, uncategorically no. This is a love story. Add it to your DO NOT MISS list of films to watch.


The film stars Sally HawkinsMichael ShannonRichard JenkinsDoug JonesMichael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer.  Composer, Alexandre Desplat. Producer, J. Miles Dale. Production Companies, Bull Productions, Double Dare You (DDY), Fox Searchlight Pictures

A novelized adaptation of the film, w,ritten by del Toro and Daniel Kraus, will be released on February 27, 2018

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