From visionary director Guillermo del Toro, from Pan’s Labrynth fame, comes a fantasy romantic film that blew its competition out of the water at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony. Nominated in thirteen categories, The shape of water won Oscars for Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Director and the pinnacle of filmmaking, Best Picture. Against memorable selections like Out, Ladybird, call me by your name, Phantom wire, and more, it won out from stiff competition, and not every critic agreed it was worthy of the highest accolade.
Following the life of a mute janitor in a government facility in the early 1960s in Baltimore, the story as concocted by Guillermo del Toro takes a unique turn when she falls in love with a part-human, part-fish kept in the institution as a test subject. Years later, people are still talking about the film’s merits, and if that’s not proof it deserved every last gold statue, we’ve rounded up seven reasons why The shape of water persists to this day. Whether it’s the incredible performances by talented actors, the inventive plot or the set design that ground the historical piece in a reality full of fantastic elements, the timeless film is undoubtedly worth watching if you haven’t seen it the first time, and will will remain an important part of film history well into the future
The script is completely different from the movies being made today
The plot of the movie, as well as the dialogue, is so special compared to today’s usual blockbuster hits or indie fare. While watching the movie, it’s easy to forget how bizarre the concept is, as you get carried away by the characters and story. This is the magic of Academy-worthy filmmaking, it makes us empathize with characters we have nothing in common with, and we are rooted in a woman’s relationship with a fishman who lives solely on eggs.
Sally Hawkins nails her role as a quirky cleaning lady
Prior to appearing in The shape of waterBritish actress Sally Hawkins has already had an award-winning acting career across continents. After seeing the film, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else tackling the role with such a comprehensive understanding of the character. A mute woman living a quiet, simple life opens up and transforms when she falls in love with another being who understands what it feels like to live on the fringes of society.
The score is an absolute home run
The film’s score is by legendary composer Alexandre Desplat. Desplat has won awards from BAFTAs to Césars to Oscars, scoring a seemingly endless procession of commercially successful and critically acclaimed films, with titles like argo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I & II, and so much more. To create the score, Desplat collaborated with del Toro to create music that actually contained waves, hoping to create a “warm” feeling reminiscent of the feeling of being in love.
Octavia Spencer kills as sidekick
Actress Octavia Spencer is best known for her pivotal roles in such films as Hidden Figures and The help. Although she was a supporting character in the film, it wouldn’t have worked without her character, who played a pivotal role in the film. As a co-cleaner at the government facility and close friend of Sally Hawkins’ lead character, she becomes aware of Hawkins’s budding romance and helps her sneak around to see her aquatic friend.
Production design makes the world feel real
Production design is so often overlooked in movie making as audiences focus more on acting and camera work. But when the production design is done right, it becomes almost invisible, as it immerses us in the world of the film, allowing the story to unfold. In front of The shape of water, the director and production designer went through thousands of paint colors to pick just the right color for Hawkins’ character’s apartment, choosing to maintain a color scheme of cloudy browns, grays, and rusty greens throughout the classy film.
Specific plot details make a compelling story
While the film could have existed without the Cold War backdrop, and would still have had plenty of source material to work with, anchoring the supernatural film in historical fiction makes for a mesmerizing watch. Not only does Hawkins try to steal her lover from a top-secret government facility, but she also teams up with a Russian spy to keep him from being dissected by the Americans. After successfully smuggling the fisherman out, Hawkins keeps him in her bathtub, where she discovers his power to heal wounds, physically and perhaps emotionally.
The Fish-Man/Human Romance is fascinating to watch
While the internet discourse was quick to joke about the film and dismiss it as a weird story of a woman who fell for a fish, the new idea at the heart of the film is what makes it so special. Knowing the basics of the plot beforehand makes it almost a challenge to venture the film to get rooted in the relationship between species. This is true The shape of water succeeds and turns even the most staunch critics into romantics, charmed by the couple’s beautifully told improbable story.
Topics: The shape of water, Oscars