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  • Don Ford

Don Reviews "The Shape Of Water"

As a critic, sometimes you can be surprised by a film, good and bad. One of the best examples was last year’s "Gleason": I knew nothing of about it, and then after seeing the film, I loved it so much that it made my favorite film from last year. On the other hand…

"The Shape of Water" is the new film directed by Guillermo De Toro (Crimson Peak, Pacific Rim). Starring Sally Hawkins (Godzilla, Layer Cake), Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Loving), Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers, Jack Reacher), Michael Stuhlbarg (Steve Jobs, A Serious Man), Nick Search (Justified, Moneybag), Octavia Spencer (The Help, Hidden Figures), and Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth). Taking place in 1960s in Baltimore, there is a mute named Elisa (Hawkins) who along with Zelda (Spencer) are part of a cleaning crew at a military research facility. One day, a very special experiment called "the asset" (Jones) arrives under very secret and high security protocol, which ends up being an aquatic creature from South America, reminiscent of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The research, led by Strickland (Shannon) and Dr. Hoffstetler (Stuhlbarg) assigns Elisa to do custodial work on the lab with the asset, and actually starts to build a relationship with it. Elisa does not like the way the asset is treated by Strickland, and after she finds out they are going to terminate the asset, she derives a plan with the help from her friend and neighbor Giles (Jenkins) to help the asset escape and set it free in the ocean.

I was truly impressed with the visuals here. I always make a beef about the sets and scenery being historically correct, and of all the films I have reviewed, this is one of the most historically correct sets I have seen, especially with the facility, which really complimented the mood and storyline. Shannon does incredible as the evil government man doing what it takes to get the job done, and in this film, I truly hated him. The supporting class does incredible also, especially Spencer and Search. Search has that natural mannerism of the southern man carried over from “Justified,” and plays the role well while Spencer does what she does as the supporting friend. The huge shout out however goes to Hawkins, who hits the mark without any dialogue. I can honestly say I can see some nominations coming for Hawkins and possibly Shannon next year.

The film is about a military experiment, but the direction adds hints of trying to make it a French-style love story. For instance, on the soundtrack, there is a ton of French love songs and Elisa apartment is in a French Architecture and "foo foo" style neighborhood, so I did love the subliminal message. This also ushers in issues of relationships, bigotry and humanity brought into this film in a good way. It flows well and kept me interested, but I could not get over the themes of what I saw as bestiality in a couple of spots. I understand the love that Elisa has for the asset, but in the two love scenes between them, it truly turned me off. This film is wonderful for the first ninety minutes but then turned and hit the brick wall when not needed. The is some suspension of disbelief, but not bad. This film is rated "R" for a reason, due to violence, nudity, and adult situations, so do not takes the kids to this one, or you will have some explaining to do with them. This film was on track to being on my Top Ten of the Year, but I guarantee, it will now make my Top Ten of the Year’s Worst Films. One way we rate a film is if we would see this film again, my answer to that question is NO!

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