The Shape of Water (2017) Review

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A very fascinating and well-made movie worthy of nomination, but a Best Picture winner I think not. The Shape of Water was the surprise winner of the Best Picture award the year it came out. It had a lot of hype going into the awards and was beloved by most if I remember right, but even those hadn’t necessarily pegged it as the frontrunner. It was I would say the most unique of all of the films released that year and of course that comes with the director being Guillermo Del Toro. This movie has been on my list to watch for a very long time, but I really just never got around to seeing it, and finally I decided to give it a watch. If you have been keeping up with my reviews then you’ll know that I have been watching a past Oscar winner each week and this week it was The Shape of Water.

My first impressions about this movie is that it does seem to be Guillermo’s best work to date and is an incredibly well directed film. It excels in all of the technical aspects and even the not so technical aspects, so with that said you would think that it is deserving of winning the award. Maybe it was the fact that I already knew that it won, but I may have had higher expectations going into it. While it does achieve everything it needs to be worthy, I still don’t see it as a truly exceptional film that stands above all of the others.

I’m not going to go into who I think should have won or do any comparisons, but while the film is successful at everything, it still feels like it’s missing something and still feels a bit empty. Strange to say that it feels empty when it’s a movie with a ton of heart, but I don’t know a better way to explain the feeling. I guess I’ll just get into all of the aspects of the film and maybe come to a more clear decision by the end of this review.

The first thing that struck me the most of being truly great was the music throughout the whole film that immediately hit in the opening scene. It’s classic music that fits perfectly with this story and I never had a problem with it. I think the music itself actually elevates this film and if they hadn’t gone the route they did, then I believe the movie maybe wouldn’t have even worked. It was unique and different yet familiar and I feel like it fits very well with the story.

Speaking of the story, this movie could be interpreted in many different ways I feel like in how it is interpreted. I was getting a strong feeling of the misunderstanding of beings that aren’t human, and that would even include animals. It seemed like there was a very clear message of humans misunderstanding the importance of communication between us and other species and how we just don’t seem to care. Eliza was the perfect example of a bridge between us and the water creature.

Eliza as a character was very good with how she was written being a mute and being the bridge between two worlds. I do however think that while she has a lot of heart for this character, it was hard for me to really connect with her. It’s not fair to say that it’s because she’s a mute, but it was hard to really connect with her, because she seemed to connect more with the water creature than we were to her. It almost seemed as if she was more related to the water creature than us which may have been the point, but for most people who don’t understand how to connect with the creature, it made it more difficult. I just wish that she was written more in a way for us to connect with her first, then connect with the creature, but I never felt like that was handled all that well.

The message though is very clear that we need to better understand things that aren’t human and we need to be more proactive in trying to better communicate and understand. The problem in this situation is that it was easy to set up the villains being the typical humans, but the hero didn’t quite come to be naturally. Unless I missed something, I don’t quite understand what Eliza’s drive was to actually connect with this creature the way she did.

I understand that she is supposed to be the example of a person that isn’t judging based on appearance, but we never really get a clear motivation from her at all during the film other than that’s what the story calls for. If you’re on board though then it’s very fascinating to see her relationship develop with the creature. All the way to the point where she actually makes love with the creature, which for most is probably a point where you jump off board. I went with it because I understood what they were trying to do and say with the message, but I can’t say that it was actually handled well enough to really work for the movie as a whole.

Outside of that though, the rest of the elements of the movie were very good indeed. All of the acting was top notch and a real delight seeing all of the characters on screen. The most fun character for me was Michael Shannon who just can’t catch a break. Thinking on it more though, the acting is quite good, but it also seems like not everyone really had that much chance to standout other than Sally Hawkins. I wish they were given just a little bit more outside of her and Shannon.

I also really enjoyed the overall direction and handling of the film. This is a story that doesn’t seem like it would work as well on paper, and with most directors it probably wouldn’t work. That’s props to Del Toro who manages to handle this movie masterfully despite my issues with the character and story. I will give credit where it’s due and this is definitely one of the more unique stories that I’ve seen on screen, but it also feels very similar. A lot of these points are what hold the movie back and why I think the film is worthy of nomination, but does not feel like a Best Picture winner.

I think anyone that is a film fan should seek this movie out and watch it, because it truly is a great movie with fantastic directing. I also think that this movie will not work for everyone and for the majority of the moviegoing audience, they will probably not like it. It’s unfortunate because the reason why most won’t like it is the exact message that they’re trying to get across in this film which is a bit ironic. If you are somewhat interested in this movie then give it a shot!

If you have seen The Shape of Water and you have comments or questions, be sure to leave them below! You can also email us at and follow us @TowerCityMedia

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