Shape Of Water: This Oscar Season’s Unexpected Love Story From Guillermo del Toro
Because life is but the shipwreck of our plans
The votes have been cast, the ballots have been counted and this year’s Oscar winner for Best Picture is Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water. Starring a relatively unknown cast supported by the likes of Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins, the film grows into a love story between two unlikely beings that are tethered together by a connection neither one found anywhere else—not on ground and not underneath it.
Shape of Water is a fantasy thriller that follows Sally Hawkins as a mute cleaning lady who unexpectedly discovers an aquatic-human hybrid being housed at her place of work: A secret government lab in the middle of the Cold War. After a series of events that include sharing eggs, playing music and exciting secret trysts, Hawkin’s Eliza tries to help the amphibian escape his prison and inevitable death.
There is action and there is make-believe, car chases and magically-healing wounds—because what fantasy thriller doesn’t?—but there is also a love story that leaves its audience hopeful. You’re led into cheering for a love that blossoms between a woman that has never had a voice and a being that has been stripped of his.
Shape of Water is a risk, much like most of del Toro’s movies, but it works because Eliza and the amphibian are placed on even ground—and it is there that they build their foundation. Eliza has been silent for most of her life and always needed her closeted best friend or African-American co-worker to translate her signals to the rest of the world. The amphibian, while a celebrated god in his natural environment, was forced out of his home and made the focus of an experiment that turned him into nothing more than something to pick apart and dissect.
It was in each other that they found what was missing: Someone that saw them for who—not what—they were.
And yet, the mere premise of Shape of Water puts its audience in a rather uncomfortable position. Eliza and the amphibian fall in love and that is brilliant to see unfold, but you’re likely to find yourself in the position of Octavia’s Zelda, who straightforwardly asks how. And yet, despite all this—biological and sexual questions included—you cheer for them like you would any other underdog love story. You become involved in ways you might never have thought possible.
Nobody has a talent for creating romance amidst horror like del Toro does. His mind sees through an unparalleled vision that connects dreams and nightmares with reality and fiction, putting plenty of our imaginations to shame. If anything, his Oscar win for Best Director and Shape of Water’s Best Picture award is only clear and deserving proof of this.