Del Toro’s 2018 award-winning film features themes that are increasingly important for us. Photo:TSG Entertainment.
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Why it’s famous

Guillermo del Toro graces viewers once again with another cinematic masterpiece—though perhaps not a replacement of Pan’s Labyrinth as del Toro’s magnum opus.

The Shape of Water, a romance sci-fi fantasy, tells the tale of Elisa, confined to her world of solitude as a mute janitor at a high security government laboratory. Within the facility is a humanoid amphibian harboured for speculation, examinations, and cruel tormenting—though soon Elisa and the aquatic creature create a unique bond. In hopes to save her beloved from an imminent death, Elisa attempts a rescue mission.

Depicting a nostalgic and visually pleasing dreamscape, The Shape of Water is famous for both mesmerising visuals and deeper underlying themes throughout.

Why you haven’t seen it

Released in January 2018, it might be on your list, but you may have not have seen del Toro’s picturesque fairy-tale world portrayed within The Shape of Water, yet.

When first hearing the synopsis, you may have thought that the plot revolves around a woman who fancies some kind of fish monster—admittedly, I did—which drove me away from seeing the film for several months, before finally caving to the chorus of praise and admiration.

Why it might be tough to get through

The Shape of Water may be tough to sit through for those who are not willing to step out of their comfort zone and take a chance on a film which features scenes of masturbation and bestiality—it’s not quite a family friendly movie.  

The characters lack development, with no fully fleshed out and three-dimensional personas—which del Toro may have sacrificed in order to instead develop visuals and plot. So, the film may seem extremely plot-driven rather than character-driven, which may not be your cup of tea.

Why you should see it anyway

Beneath the fantastical layers of cinematography and otherworldly worldbuilding, lays a plethora of important themes.

Indeed, The Shape of Water is more than a mere romance and fantasy film—it highlights real life issues which are ever-present in 2018, as we look back on our past year.

Despite being set in the Cold War era in America circa 1962, it touches on topics like racism, sexism, gay rights, gender stereotypes, white privilege, and authoritarianism—which remain politically charged topics today.

Supporting these themes are a diverse cast of characters including a mute protagonist, major black and gay characters, and even a South-American immigrant (despite being half human, and half aquatic).

The Shape of Water therefore amounts to more than a woman with taboo desires for a fish monster—it is a film created by a screenwriter with a distinctive idiosyncratic imagination, that doubles as a modern-day allegory.

Famous lines

“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.”

Fun fact

Guillermo del Toro was under the influence of alcohol when he pitched the idea for The Shape of Water to Sally Hawkins (Elisa) at a 2014 Golden Globes party.