Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s acclaimed fantasy film takes the old monster movies and views them from a skewered perspective. In the first half, we’re following the action from the point of view of the cleaning woman at a government facility.

Then, she decides to get involved….

Title: The Shape of Water

Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito
Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland
Richard Jenkins as Giles
Octavia Spencer as Zelda Fuller
Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler
Doug Jones as Creature
David Hewlett as Fleming
Nick Searcy as General Hoyt
Stewart Arnott as Bernard
Nigel Bennett as Mihalkov
Lauren Lee Smith as Elaine Strickland
Martin Roach as Brewster Fuller
Allegra Fulton as Yolanda
John Kapelos as Mr. Arzoumanian
Morgan Kelly as Pie Guy
Marvin Kaye as Burly Russian
Wendy Lyon as Sally
Cody Ray Thompson Cody Ray Thompson
Madison Ferguson as Tammy Strickland
Jayden Greig as Timmy Strickland
Deney Forrest as Lou


A cleaning woman at a government facility falls for a creature held captive in 1961 Baltimore.

High Points:

I consider this the best F/X film of the year, because it uses the tech in service of the story. In addition to the Gill-man, we have a fabulous view of a slightly rundown urban neighbourhood, the streets of the early 1960s turned into a fit setting for a fairy tale. I could not see the seams between CGI and set, set and location. I know Toronto fairly well, and it’s unrecognizable here.

Sally Hawkins (whose performance last year in the Maud Lewis biopic, Maudie needs to be seen) gives another stunning– and nearly wordless– performance as a cleaning woman with damaged vocal cords who falls for a monster.

Low Points:

The film’s key villains had to be driven and unlikeable, but they’re overwritten here. It’s not that I couldn’t believe people like them exist but, rather, because they’re so one-dimensionally vile, the conflict lacks moral depth and the film loses dramatic power.

I remain uncertain about the ending. Even for a fable, it feels too obvious.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The film riffs on old monster movies, presented from a fresh perspective. Most obviously it takes its inspiration from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, but we’ve got allusions to Frankenstein, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, King Kong and the thousand iterations of Beauty and the Beast. In the second half, it recalls films such as E.T. and Free Willy. If you went to the film expecting E.T. for adults, you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 6/6 The film features superior acting, even among the somewhat stereotypical secondary characters.

Production: 6/6

Story: 5/6 Responses will vary. I found the opening mesmerizing. I recognize that some viewers will find the pacing a little slow. Others will be at odds with the second half, which turns the film into something a little too familiar.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, The Shape of Water receives 36/42

One reply

  1. Some people have noted similarities between this movie and this short student film, but they’ve agreed they had different timelines for development, and were taking inspiration from similar sources:

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