By: Christian Harding (A Toast) –
The term “visionary” gets tossed around in the filmic scene far too much these days, in this writer’s humble opinion (there are many great directors out there to be sure, but “visionary” is maybe pushing it a bit too far in most cases). But if there was anyone currently working in mainstream directing circles who best deserves that title, Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro would most definitely be among these candidates – at least in terms of the sheer wonderment and creativity on display in every single one of his works. Most well known for alternating between a series of consistently intriguing horror-fantasy hybrid passion projects, and elevating typical studio fare by adding his usual creative stamp, Del Toro has made quite the career for himself whilst adapting his own childhood fantasies onscreen for the entire world to enjoy. That now brings us to the man’s latest project, The Shape of Water, which has poised itself recently as being among one of the most significant awards prospects this Oscar season; and for good reason, too. More than anything else Del Toro has made in the past decade, this is easily one of the liveliest, most vital, and original pieces of mainstream genre filmmaking since, I don’t even know, the Lord of the Rings trilogy maybe?
Our story, set in the Cold War felt America of 1960’s, follows a mute woman named Elisa (played by Sally Hawkins) who works as a cleaning lady during the night shift at a secret government laboratory of sorts. While on the clock one night, a mysterious creature from the Amazon is brought in to be housed in her facility, along with it an undesirable crew of potentially untrustworthy government folks assigned to deal with the creature. But soon after its arrival, Elisa and the amphibian man (who is never given a name, likely a screenwriting choice meant to preserve its otherworldly nature) establish a bond of sorts, which starts out as a shared connection of humanity and eventually blossoms into something more conventionally romantic. And if that sounds a bit offbeat to you, then you’re not alone. But the fact that Guillermo Del Toro was able to take this admittedly goofy sounding (at least in theory) storyline and make it not only believable and able to be taken completely seriously, but to make it as deeply felt and moving as The Shape of Water soon reveals itself to be is a real testament to his talent and probably marks his greatest achievement as a filmmaker to date.
2. A sweet, unconventional love story.
3. A story about the plight of underdogs and the perceived “lessers” of society, where the historically disenfranchised manage to find ways to thrive right underneath the nose of the oppressors who never gave them a second thought.
4. A giant middle finger / “stick it to the man” allegory about overcoming systemic oppression.
5. All of these things at once
The Shape of Water (2017) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: each time Elisa signs.
Do another Shot: whenever you get a good look at the creature.
Shotgun a Beer: when Michael Shannon dials his mania up to eleven.
Pour a Glass of Wine: In celebration of Guillermo del Toro actually being able to pull off making a fishman romance story both digestible and serious.