Special Issues » SCAD Savannah Film Festival Issue

Review: The Shape of Water

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Guillermo del Toro returns with one of his most stunning films to date.

Set in Cold War era America, The Shape of Water -- screened Thursday night as part of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival -- is a beautiful exploration of loneliness, connection, language, and healing. Eliza (Sally Hawkins), a mute young woman, leads a simple, isolated life, working as a maid in a government facility alongside Zelda (Octavia Spencer).

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When an anthropomorphic sea creature, reportedly worshipped as a god in its South American home, is brought into the facility, Eliza forms an unusual, deep connection. With the help of Zelda and her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), Eliza decides to protect the creature at all costs.

From the decadence of a romantic opera-style theatre to the pastels and pie displays of a midcentury diner to the steely government labs, The Shape of Water is a love letter to the era.

But Del Toro doesn’t slip into blinded affection for the past; his latest shows the blatant racism of the time, the paralyzing fear of workplace harassment for women, and deeply-rooted homophobia.

It’s an underdog story, a tenderly strange romance, an ode to classic monster movies carried out a gentle, exquisite touch. Del Toro continues to prove he’s a masterful storyteller capable of creating otherworldly fantasies within the painful trappings of true history.

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