The Shape Of Water (2017) Review

The Shape Of Water (2017)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid-amphibian creature.

My Opinion:

It felt like the longest wait EVER to finally see The Shape Of Water in the UK. It came out on Valentine’s Day with that Fifty Shades Shit. Give me the fish man over that crap any day! I was really excited as this is my type of thing & I think Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is fantastic. I probably hyped this one up too much in my mind after months of anticipation. I did really like it but Pan’s Labyrinth is still by far del Toro’s best. This is my second favorite he’s directed that I’ve seen, though.

Where do I start?! It’s pretty bad when you can believe in a love story involving a fish man more than one in some sappy romcom bullshit starring Kate Hudson (or whoever has replaced her nowadays – I’m not a big romcom chick). Doug Jones does well giving life to… Umm… Fish Man! Do I have to keep calling him that??? Okay – he’s officially credited as Amphibian Man / The Asset. The whole point of most of del Toro’s work seems to be that the true monsters are those who appear normal on the outside and, as expected, that’s the theme here. You’ll feel for Amphibian Man and understand why the character played by Sally Hawkins wants to protect him. You may not want to have sex with him, though. Who knows. Maybe you will! That’s just not for me, but I’m sure I’d have a lovely platonic friendship with Amphibian Man.

The overall story was more predictable & straightforward than I was expecting. Michael Shannon made for a good baddie as usual but his performance also felt a bit phoned in. That’s probably because he does this type of role so often. He’s quite a one-dimensional baddie, which was a little disappointing. But I do love to truly hate the bad guy in a movie and he certainly manages to achieve that here.

Besides Amphibian Man, we have four main human characters who help him out. Sally Hawkins is of course the cleaner who falls in love with him, Octavia Spencer is her friend & co-worker, Richard Jenkins is her friend & neighbor, and Michael Stuhlbarg is a scientist who doesn’t approve of the treatment of Amphibian Man. Hawkins, Spencer & Jenkins are all up for acting Oscars and I’m happy with that. I loved that Hawkins was mute, making her connection with Amphibian Man even stronger. Hawkins & Jones do a great job expressing their emotions without words. I especially liked Jenkins as her neighbor and Spencer was once again a very likeable friend of our main character, though it would be nice to see her as more than just the friendly sidekick (I’ve not yet seen Hidden Figures).

The characters are what make this movie and I really enjoyed them. The story is simple as are its themes but I still like its theme of love & acceptance, which is still relevant today. Set in 1962, all our characters have to deal with intolerance (the mute Hawkins as well as Jenkins & Spencer due to sexual orientation and race). While I despise anything too overtly political in movies, The Shape Of Water remains subtle and this group of people and the parallels with the treatment of Amphibian Man work really well. There are some beautiful scenes & cinematography as well as a lovely score (it’s also nominated for cinematography, production design & score).

I hope The Shape Of Water does well at the Oscars but I keep flipping back & forth on if I prefer this or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This one is more “me” but I think Three Billboards may be slightly ahead for me. I’d be interested to see if my opinion changes in a year. The Shape Of Water feels more timeless & cinematic and may be the more highly acclaimed film in the future. Oh, and as one last thing, I have to add that I love where Hawkins lived in this film. Guillermo del Toro knows how to please cinephiles!

My Rating: 8/10

**By the way – Sally Hawkins is a serial masturbator in this. I may have to add to My Top Five Movie Scenes Of Self-Pleasure


Arrival (2016) Review

Arrival (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Based on Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

My Opinion:

YES!!!! This is good sci-fi. This is what I wanted when I watched Interstellar & was left extremely disappointed. This is intelligent sci-fi that doesn’t feel the need to dumb things down for its audience but also isn’t up its own self-important arse (like, you know, Interstellar). I didn’t look at my watch once while watching this & wonder if the movie was in fact five hours long (like I did with, you know, Interstellar). Okay – I’ll shut up about the massively overrated Interstellar now (I promise!). I’m just happy that Arrival is a great high-concept sci-fi film that can easily stand alongside some of the best classics of its genre (unlike a 2014 Christopher Nolan-directed, Matthew McConaughey-starring sci-fi film that shall remain nameless).

Arrival is a movie of two parts (like all the very best science fiction films): The cool alien shit and how humanity deals with their arrival as well as the more personal “human story” (involving the character of Amy Adams) at its heart. I’m not one for overly-sentimental stories in films as they so often feel contrived but Arrival handles the story involving Adams and her personal life beautifully & I found it very moving and not at all cloying (like I may have found with another film I won’t mention but that starts with the letter I).

I’m not great at handling these emotional films! Between Arrival, Room & Nocturnal Animals (although that Amy Adams film, which I reviewed HERE yesterday, was emotional in the completely opposite way), 2016 has been quite a year for movies that had me reeling with their sheer intensity. By the way – Room was 2016 in the UK so don’t correct me. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, my “reeling” comment sounded corny. Sorry! But I’m not sure how else to describe that feeling you get from those films that are so well-made, through I suppose a combination of great directing, acting, cinematography, story, atmosphere, music, etc etc, that you end up fully immersed in the world of the film. It’s weird – movies seem to be getting worse & worse in recent years but the GOOD ones are actually getting better & better. There’s a huge divide now between the (many) bad films and the (sadly far fewer) films that are so amazingly good that they almost transcend reality. Okay – that really did sound corny.

My point is this: Arrival is possibly one of the transcendent ones. I knew I’d struggle writing about it but I’ve thought about it a lot since seeing it a week & a half ago. With movies like these, I don’t like to write about them until I’ve had enough time to sort out my thoughts. I currently have this ranked just below Room on my 2016 list as it still didn’t manage to move me quite as much as Jacob Tremblay’s scarily good performance in that. However, Arrival is the better film overall. The look, the story, the relationships (particularly the main one involving Amy Adams), the message, the aliens(!)… There’s nothing I love more than a good alien film! I loved Arrival & movies like these are what keep me watching & loving them despite having to sift through so many bad ones.

I’m not great with words (making this blogging thing a massive struggle) so I’ll just leave it at this: Arrival is a damn good film. I’d love to hear from anyone who feels the same. Or even anyone who feels differently and prefers science fiction movies starring Anne Hathaway & directed by Jonathan Nolan’s brother. And, please oh please, will you discuss Nocturnal Animals with me in the comments of that review if you’ve seen it??? That movie absolutely floored me. You’ve had one hell of a month, Amy Adams!

My Rating: 9/10