MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: FOX Searchlight Pictures
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon.
If you want to jump down right away to the halo and pitchfork rating, that might be the best warning to those wondering about whether or not The Shape of Water could offend your Christian sensibilities. But I must add that this movie is not going to connect with everyone, anyway.
I found The Shape of Water to be one of the most entertaining films of 2017. Writer-director Guillermo Del Toro states that this film was created to celebrate his love of movies – all kinds of movies. Included in this freewheeling film are elements of science fiction and fantasy, Cold War intrigue, underdog heroes, erotic sexuality, romance, and Hollywood musicals.
Eliza Esposito (Hawkins) lives in a Baltimore apartment building above a movie theater. She rides the bus into Washington, D.C. to work as part of the cleaning crew of a top-secret government laboratory. Eliza is mute, but she has a couple of good friends: her coworker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her next-door neighbor, struggling commercial artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). All of them live on the periphery, outsiders ignored and overlooked by those in power.
It’s 1962 and the nation is involved in a Cold War (and a space race) with the Soviet Union (with our own nation’s struggle with civil rights also making an impact). When a mysterious amphibian creature is brought into the facility, sadistic scientist Hoffstetler (Michael Shannon) is determined to show no mercy in examining the creature, even if it might lead to its death. But Hoffstetler did not bargain on Eliza’s connection to the Amphibian Man. As she ventures toward the holding tank, she uses sign language and gifts of hardboiled eggs to build a bridge of acceptance and compassion.
Eventually Eliza and her friends must figure out a way to protect the creature, but that is just part of the story. There will be surprise alliances as well as strange developments along the way. Some scenes border on the ridiculous, but the beautiful set design and lush musical score by Alexandre Desplat, combined with great acting from the entire cast, create a surprisingly entertaining movie.
I have always been a big fan of 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon (with the immortal line: “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about those chains!”), the primary inspiration for The Shape of Water. And I admire Del Toro’s love of movies and his ability to put it all onscreen. If you’ve read this review to the end, you should have figured out whether or not this movie is for you. There are no big messages in this movie, but sometimes it’s good to savor the simple joys that come when the lights go down and the screen lights up.
Three halos: A fanciful and diverting mashup of genres with the quiet messages of acceptance and compassion.
Three pitchfork: Quite a bit of sexuality and nudity, including humans having sex, but no explicit creature sexual congress; occasional strong swearing; brief scenes of violence and torture.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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