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‘The Shape of Water’ is an acquired taste for viewers

3/5 Stars

Fox Searchlight Pictures’ 2017 Oscar-winning film, “The Shape of Water,” may leave viewers wondering how it found so much success. The movie has a run time of just over two hours and can be streamed on Hulu. This fantasy romance film attempts to tell a love story despite seemly insurmountable social pressure but instead creates an uncomfortable dynamic that is difficult to take seriously.  

This film is directed by Guillermo del Toro, who is known for his work with fantasy films. del Toro is also known for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Pacific Rim” and “Crimson Peak.” 

“The Shape of Water” stars Sally Hawkins as Eliza Esposito, a mute maid, and Doug Jones as her love interest Amphibian Man, a humanoid amphibian creature. Jones is best known for portraying non-human creatures such as in roles including Abe Sabian in “Hellboy” and Saru in “Star Trek.”

Other notable actors in the film include Octavia Spencer as Zelda, Michael Shannon as Strickland and Richard Jenkins as Giles.

This film is about Esposito, a woman who is working as a maid in a high-security government research laboratory and is unable to speak. Kidnapped from South America, Amphibian Man, whose mannerism, size and general shape is that of a human but otherwise resembles an amphibian, is held captive in the same government facility where she works. Esposito stumbles across this creature during one of her shifts and they immediately form a connection. With the help of her friends, she embarks on a mission to save Amphibian Man. In doing so, their emotional and physical connection grows.

The setting of the film takes place in 1962 Baltimore, Maryland in a seemingly oppressed society that appears to have a distinct social pattern. The costumes throughout the movie stay relevant to the time period as well as the occupation, style and social class of each character. 

Amphibian Man’s costume was a large, full-body commitment that consisted of extremely realistic amphibious characteristics including scaly blue-green skin that covered him from head to toe. The attention to detail that was put into creating this costume is admirable and left Jones looking far more like a water-dwelling creature than a human throughout the film. 

Fox Searchlight Pictures fell short in creating a romance film that depicted a relationship that felt real and authentic, which made it difficult to become emotionally invested in the film. Although the acting in the film was impressive, there was something about watching a human form an intimate relationship with something so animalistic that puts the overall impression of the film somewhere between disturbing and corny.

“The Shape of Water” is an acquired taste that deserves a shot from anyone who appreciates del Toro’s work in fantasy romance. Otherwise, this movie may just find itself at the bottom of your Hulu watch list.

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