Guillermo del Toro has gone to the heights of fantasy and love in his new movie, The Shape of Water. He directed and co-wrote the script for this adult Grimm’s fairy-tale-like story of interspecies love. There is full frontal female nudity and violence. The special effects are wonderful. The movie begins with everything in Elisa’s room floating underwater with her napping on the sofa as if she lives underwater. However, this was more a movie about bullying.
Sally Hawkins plays as Elisa Esposito who is one of many cleaners of the military labs at a base in 1962 Baltimore. She delivers a heartfelt performance of a mute woman whose signing can’t always be interpreted to her satisfaction. Elisa starts a relationship with the creature simply by being kind. She imagines the Amphibian Man could exist in a world where all creatures are accepted. Also, I did notice that none of the lab cleaners at the military base wore gloves in what could have been very contagious circumstances—blood, pus, etc. But, there is a secret about Elisa that I will leave to you to find out by watching the movie.
Doug Jones plays the Amphibian Man, who, like “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, gets a bad rap for being himself. The creature was where he was supposed to be. It’s not an attack when you’re in his turf. However, his novelty would be worth millions in the right hands. The very sexy and majestic creature is considered a monster especially when he gets mad, rips out a throat, and tears off a few fingers where before he was only trying to communicate with the humans. Amphibian Man is bullied and tortured daily by Strickland. His only fault was to get captured in South America.
Octavia Spencer plays Zelda Fuller, a cleaner of the labs who interprets Elisa’s sign language for others. Zelda didn’t bully anyone. However, her husband (played by Martin Roach) did not go to see who was at the door at night nor did he defend her in any way when she was attacked in her own home by Strickland.
Richard Jenkins (one of my favorite actors who adds to any movie in a supporting role) plays Giles, the unstereotypical gay man, talented in art, but who probably lost a cushy job because of his sexual persuasion. Giles is looking for love and attracted to young men who are not attracted to him (Morgan Kelly as the Pie Guy). Giles was bullied twice. First, by being made to produce art work unpaid in hopes of getting his job back, so he was afraid to help Elisa with the Amphibian Man. And, secondly, even mute Elisa, his best friend, grabbed Giles by the collar in frustration of his not getting the full impact of her signed argument.
Michael Shannon plays Richard Strickland—a man in a prison of his own making and the biggest bully of all. He is the newly appointed military project head who even put the security chief (David Hewlett as Fleming) out of his own office. Even in sex with his wife (Lauren Lee Smith), he is vicious and doesn’t like the sounds that women make during sex. I believe he doesn’t like women at all, and he is the kind of guy who is unlikely to have friends. He has worked toward the status quo of getting a job in which he can advance, getting married, owning a home, and having children (who seem to be invisible to him). Strickland caused the most violence in the movie using cattle prods, guns, words, unsolicited touching, etc. He was truly an “Ugly American”, the real monster. His cruelty almost caused me projectile vomiting. You see the horror but you can’t stop looking at it. Strickland must have had a troubling childhood.
Michael Stuhlbarg plays as Dr. Robert Hoffstetler. He gives a great performance as a man who is a humanitarian scientist torn in loyalty to both the Russian (Nigel Bennett as Milhalkov) and American (Nick Searcy as General Hoyt) governments who both let him down with their fatal decision to carve up the creature. Hoffstetler is a good man with the best of intentions.
Cleaner Yolanda (played by Allegra Fulton) was always in a hurry to get home every morning, as the cleaners cleaned at night.
The secretary for the security department, Sally (played by Wendy Lyon) had a great many facial reactions to her new temporary supervisor’s actions.
Marvin Kaye was funny as the Russian bodyguard who ate wherever he went.
John Kapelos was great as the enthusiastic theater owner, Mr. Arzoumanian.
Rosa L. Griffin