The Shape of Water is a 2017 American fantasy drama film directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Set in Baltimore in 1962, the story follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid amphibian creature.
The Shape of Water was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, where it premiered on August 31, 2017, and was awarded the Golden Lion for best film in the competition. It also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. It began a limited release in two theaters in New York City on December 1, 2017, before expanding from December 8, 2017, and has grossed $191 million worldwide. A novelization by del Toro and Daniel Kraus was published on March 6, 2018.
The Shape of Water received critical acclaim for its performances, screenplay, direction, visuals, production design, and musical score, with many critics calling it del Toro's best work since Pan's Labyrinth; the American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year. The film received a number of awards and nominations, including thirteen nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, where it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, and Best Production Design. It was nominated for seven awards at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, winning for Best Director and Best Original Score. At the 71st British Academy Film Awards, it received twelve nominations and won three awards, including Best Director. The film also earned fourteen nominations at the 23rd Critics' Choice Awards and won four awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Elisa Esposito, who was found in a river as an orphaned child with wounds on her neck, is mute, and communicates through sign language. She lives alone in an apartment above a cinema, and works as a cleaning-woman at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore at the height of the Cold War. Her friends are her closeted next-door neighbor Giles, a struggling advertising illustrator who shares a strong bond with her, and her co-worker Zelda, a woman who also serves as her interpreter at work.
The facility receives a mysterious creature captured from a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland, who is in charge of the project to study it. Curious about the creature, Elisa discovers it is a humanoid amphibian. She begins visiting him in secret, and the two form a close bond.
Seeking to exploit the creature to American advantage in the Space Race, General Frank Hoyt orders Strickland to vivisect it. One scientist, Robert Hoffstetler—who is in truth a Soviet spy named Dimitri Mosenkov—pleads unsuccessfully to keep the creature alive for further study and, at the same time, is ordered by his Soviet handlers to euthanize the creature. When Elisa learns of the Americans' plans for the creature, she persuades Giles to help her free him. Mosenkov discovers Elisa's plot and chooses to help her. Though initially reluctant, Zelda becomes involved in the escape, and it is successful.
Elisa keeps the creature in her bathtub, adding salt to the water to keep him alive. She plans to release the creature into a nearby canal when it will be opened to the ocean in several days' time. As part of his efforts to recover the creature, Strickland interrogates Elisa and Zelda, but the failure of his advances toward Elisa hampers his judgment, and he dismisses them. Back at the apartment, Giles discovers the creature devouring one of his cats, Pandora. Startled, the creature slashes Giles's arm and rushes out of the apartment. The creature gets as far as the cinema downstairs before Elisa finds him and returns him to her apartment. The creature touches Giles on his balding head and his wounded arm; the next morning, Giles discovers his hair has begun growing back and the wounds on his arm have healed. Elisa and the creature soon become romantically involved, having sex in her bathroom, which she at one point fills completely with water.
Hoyt gives Strickland an ultimatum, asking him to recover the creature within 36 hours. Meanwhile, Mosenkov is told by his handlers that he will be extracted in two days. As the planned release date approaches, the creature's health starts deteriorating. Mosenkov leaves to rendezvous with his handlers, with Strickland tailing him. At the rendezvous, Mosenkov is shot by one of his handlers, but Strickland shoots the handlers dead and then tortures Mosenkov for information. Mosenkov implicates Elisa and Zelda before dying from his wounds. Strickland then threatens Zelda in her home, causing her terrified husband to reveal that Elisa had been keeping the creature. Strickland searches Elisa's apartment and finds a calendar note revealing when and where she plans to release him.
At the canal, Elisa and Giles bid farewell to the creature, but Strickland arrives and attacks them all. Strickland knocks Giles down and shoots the creature and Elisa, who both appear to die. However, the creature heals himself and slashes Strickland's throat, killing him. As police arrive on the scene with Zelda, the creature takes Elisa and jumps into the canal, where, deep under water, he heals her. When he applies his healing touch to the scars on her neck, they open to reveal gills like his. In a closing voice-over narration, Giles conveys his belief that Elisa lived "happily ever after" with the creature. He quotes a poem: "Unable to perceive the shape of you, I find you all around me / Your presence fills my eyes with your love, It humbles my heart, For you are everywhere."
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The idea for The Shape of Water formed during del Toro's breakfast with Daniel Kraus in 2011, with whom he later co-wrote the novel Trollhunters. It shows similarities to the 2015 short film The Space Between Us, and also to Rachel Ingalls' novel Mrs. Caliban. It was also primarily inspired by del Toro's childhood memories of seeing Creature from the Black Lagoon and wanting to see the Gill-man and Kay Lawrence (played by Julie Adams) succeed in their romance. When del Toro was in talks with Universal to direct a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon, he tried pitching a version focused more on the creature's perspective, where the Creature ended up together with the female lead, but the studio executives rejected the concept.
Del Toro set the film during the 1960s Cold War era to counteract today's heightened tensions, specifying, "if I say once upon a time in 1962, it becomes a fairy tale for troubled times. People can lower their guard a little bit more and listen to the story and listen to the characters and talk about the issues, rather than the circumstances of the issues."
In an interview with IndieWire about the film, del Toro said, "This movie is a healing movie for me. ... For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we're going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven."
|The Shape of Water (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album by Alexandre Desplat|
|Released||1 December 2017|
All tracks written by Alexandre Desplat, except where noted.
|1.||"The Shape of Water"||3:42|
|2.||"You'll Never Know" (feat. Renée Fleming)||4:38|
|7.||"Elisa and Zelda"||1:10|
|8.||"Five Stars General"||1:31|
|9.||"The Silence of Love"||1:35|
|11.||"That Isn't Good"||1:43|
|16.||"He's Coming For You"||1:39|
|17.||"Overflow of Love"||2:56|
|20.||"A Princess Without a Voice"||1:50|
|21.||"La Javanaise" (Madeleine Peyroux)||4:10|
|22.||"I Know Why (And So Do You)" (Glenn Miller and His Orchestra)||2:58|
|23.||"Chica Chica Boom Chic" (Carmen Miranda)||2:19|
|24.||"Babalú" (Caterina Valente & Silvio Francesco)||2:51|
|25.||"A Summer Place" (Andy Williams)||2:34|
|26.||"You'll Never Know" (feat. Renée Fleming [Alternative Version])||6:49|
After grossing $4.6 million over three weeks of limited release, the film began its wide release on December 22, 2017, alongside the openings of Downsizing, Pitch Perfect 3 and Father Figures, and the wide expansion of Darkest Hour, and grossed $3 million from 726 theaters over the weekend, and $4.4 million over the four-day Christmas frame. The following weekend, the film made $3.5 million. The weekend of January 27, 2018, following the announcement of the film's 13 Oscar nominations, the film was added to over 1,000 theaters (for a total of 1,854) and made $5.9 million (an increase of 171% over the previous week's $2.2 million), finishing 8th. The weekend of March 9–11, following its four Oscar wins, the film made $2.4 million. It marked a 64% increase from the previous week's $1.5 million and was similar to the $2.5 million made by the previous year's Best Picture winner, Moonlight.
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 343 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best—and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". According to CinemaScore, audience members under the age of 40 gave the film an average grade of either "A+" or "A", while those over 40 gave it an "A" or "A−", on an A+ to F scale. ComScore reported audiences gave the film an overall positive score of 80%.
Ben Croll of IndieWire gave the film an 'A' rating and called it "one of del Toro's most stunningly successful works... also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free." Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising Hawkins's performance, the cinematography and del Toro's direction, and saying: "Even as the film plunges into torment and tragedy, the core relationship between these two unlikely lovers holds us in thrall. Del Toro is a world-class film artist. There's no sense trying to analyze how he does it." For the Minnesota Daily, Haley Bennett reacted positively, writing, "The Shape of Water has tenderness uncommon to del Toro films. ... While The Shape of Water isn't groundbreaking, it is elegant and mesmerizing."
Conversely, Rex Reed of the New York Observer gave the film 1 out of 4 stars and calling it "a loopy, lunkheaded load of drivel" and, referring to Hawkins's role in Maudie, described people with disabilities as "defective creatures." Reed's review was criticized for referring to Sally Hawkins' mute character as "mentally handicapped" and for erroneously crediting actor Benicio del Toro as director.
The Shape of Water appeared on many critics' year-end top-ten lists, among them:
The Shape of Water received 13 nominations at the 90th Academy Awards, the most of any film in the 2018 race. It won in four categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score.
The film also spawned some debate about whether the fact that it was filmed in Canada, with a predominantly Canadian crew and many Canadian actors in the supporting roles, should have made it eligible to be nominated for the Canadian Screen Awards. Under Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television rules, to qualify for CSA nominations under the rules for international coproductions at least 15 per cent of a film's funding must come from a Canadian film studio. Even the film's Canadian coproducer, J. Miles Dale, stated that he supports the rules and does not believe the film should have been eligible.
In February 2018, the estate of Paul Zindel initiated a lawsuit in United States District Court for the Central District of California against director Guillermo del Toro and associate producer Daniel Kraus, alleging that The Shape of Water "brazenly copies the story, elements, characters, and themes" of Zindel's 1969 work Let Me Hear You Whisper, which depicts a cleaning lady bonding with a dolphin and attempting to rescue it from a secret research laboratory's nefarious uses. The complaint spends more than a dozen pages detailing alleged "overwhelming similarities" between the works.
Del Toro denied the claim of the Zindel estate, saying that "I have never read nor seen the play. I'd never heard of this play before making The Shape of Water, and none of my collaborators ever mentioned the play." Distributor Fox Searchlight also denied the claim and said that it would "vigorously defend" itself in court.