Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far: https://largeassmovieblogs.com/2018/01/the-lamb-devours-the-oscars-2018-roster.html
Today, Nick Rehak from French Toast Sunday is here to look at another Best Picture nominee, The Shape of Water.
I wasn’t supposed to see this film. Don’t get me wrong, I planned on going, but I wasn’t supposed to see it when I did. I was having a bad day and decided to leave work early and catch a screening of Phantom Thread. When I got there, the theater was closed due to a power outage. I was annoyed. Some might even say perturbed. Defeated, I drove home and complained to my girlfriend. She suggested that we go see Darkest Hour at another nearby-ish theater. It was a Tuesday, no need to buy tickets in advance. We drive out to the theater, ready to see a World War Two Winston Churchill biopic featuring Gary Oldman in what is certain to be an Academy Award winning role. Really, who goes to see a World War Two Winston Churchill biopic on a Tuesday? The answer is enough people to sell out the 7:45 and 10:50 showings. Defeated again, we scan for other films that are showing. The Shape of Water had just enough tickets left, so we snatched them up. The trailers had always intrigued me, but I didn’t think I’d be fortunate enough to catch the film in theaters. I thought it would be one of those films I’d see halfway through 2018 and regret not seeing it sooner. Tickets in hand, we made our way to the theater. I was still in a sour mood. I was also worried this would hamper my enjoyment of the film, and that I’d be over critical of it. I’m happy to say I was wrong.
As the opening scene played out, a wash of calm and comfort came over me. I was mesmerized and instantly transported to another time and place. The opening moments of The Shape of Water are technically impressive and visually stunning. We’re given a tour of a gorgeously flooded apartment as Richard Jenkins provides welcoming narration. I felt like I was entering a fairy tale dream world. As the water dissipated and the story began, I knew I was in for something special.
Set in 1960s Baltimore, The Shape of Water tells the story of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) a mute janitor who works at a top-secret government facility. Elisa discovers an amphibious almost humanoid creature (Doug Jones) and begins to develop a relationship. The creature is being monitored and studied by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) who plans to exploit the creature as a weapon against the Soviets.
The stellar cast is rounded out by Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg, who all give solid, screen commanding performances. Their character arcs intersect so seamlessly, it’s a perfect combination that leaves you both satisfied and wanting more. The icing on the cake is the fantastic score by Alexandre Desplat. It’s wondersome yet tense when it needs to be, but it also nestles in and warms your heart. The romantic side of the score feels like you’re sitting next to your favorite person, chatting for hours in front of a soft fire. The night turns into day without you even realizing it. Really that’s how the whole film feels; like you’re falling in love for the first time.
But through it’s moments of light and love, there is a darkness to this film. Sure, there is physical bloody violence, but discrimination rears it’s ugly head throughout the film. It’s like a gut punch of a reminder, taking the breath from our lungs as we dwell on society’s backward thought process. Shannon’s character very bluntly and confidently makes remarks on Spencer’s African-American heritage, and as soon as Jenkin’s homosexuality is revealed, he’s immediately shunned. But I like to think that The Shape of Water is telling us that no matter how society looks at the world and no matter the hatred in the world, two people, no matter how different, can find love. That love truly conquers all. It’s a universal message for a universal film.
But the film is so much more than that. It’s a love story that feels familiar yet wonderfully new. It’s a cold war thriller that builds tremendous tension. It’s a prison break film. It’s a story of self-discovery and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s all this and more, weaved so perfectly by del Toro. Seeing this film take home the Oscar would be an incredible fairy tale ending to this incredible fairy tale film.
What do you think of The Shape of Water’s chances at Oscar glory?