The Shape of Water—A Cold War Era Fairytale

The Shape of Water movie poster

The Shape of Water is the story of Elisa, a mute woman who works as a cleaning woman in a top secret facility. One day they bring a fish monster into the lab, and Elisa falls in love. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor.

Warning: full frontal nudity, female.

1—Once Upon A Time

Where to start talking about The Shape of Water? It’s a slow simmer, rather than an action-packed romp, but the pacing is just perfect for what it is. I was never bored. The imagery is beautiful, starting with an underwater apartment scene. We meet Elisa and get to know her routine—wake up, masturbate, cook eggs, go to work. And then her routine is disrupted by a scream and a man coming out of a room bleeding from the stumps of his fingers.


The U.S. government want to vivisect the fish-man. The Russian government wants the creature dead so that the U.S. can’t study it. Dr. Hoffstetler, who is secretly a Russian spy named Dimitri, wants to study the creature alive, and thus helps Elisa, Zelda (Elisa’s co-worker) and Giles (Elisa’a best friend, a gay man who lives next door to her) steal the creature. Thus begins the hunt for the creature by Colonel Richard Strickland, a family man who sexually harasses Elisa and belittles everyone around him. In a film of the War Era, Strickland would be the hero—here, you see him for the monster he is.

3—The End

The end of the film was perfect, satisfying in every way. MAJOR SPOILERS—the bad guy seems to win only for the creature to rise up and kill him. Then the creature takes the lethally injured Elsa with him into the water, swimming around her bleeding body as she slowly sinks. Then her resurrection with a kiss—it’s all just too perfect, but in a good way. END MAJOR SPOILERS


I loved The Shape of Water. It was sweet and suspenseful, with a villain worthy of the epithet. I will definitely be rewatching this one.

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