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First, some backstory:

I’ve been wanting to see The Shape of Water movie for a while. Yes, I know it only released on December 1st, but it didn’t reach Minnesota for a while and apparently only a few select theaters actually got it. I kept waiting for it to come to a local AMC theater the hubs and I always go to but the distribution must be super limited because it STILL isn’t there.

You’re probably thinking, “AMC? Anela, did you really think this niche film would show at a chain movie theater?”

To which I’d answer, “Hey, it’s a Guillermo Del Toro movie, okay? He’s not exactly obscure. And AMC has stadium seating and recliners for seats and chocolate covered almonds. I mean, cut me some slack here!”

So, last Saturday we finally locate the movie in Uptown, better known Artsy-Fartsy-town, where even the McDonald’s has to posh up their look in order for the local clientele to deign it worthy of their lofty burger-and-fries indulgences. Am I being judge-y? Well…yes, but I’m not exaggerating. The McDonald’s across the street was all sleek lines and cool blue and grey colors. Don’t go looking for a ball pit or Ronald McDonald in there. Pretty sure the food is still made from animal fat and processed meat though.

We get to the theater and it’s an interesting place, its seating organized as though you’re looking down on a stage rather than a big screen. We had balcony seats and there’s an upstairs bar which helped soothe the absence of my usual reclining chair.

The movie begins.

Now, for those who aren’t aware, Guillermo Del Toro has an interesting résumé. He’s done blockbuster films like Pacific Rim (hate-hate-hate) as well as oddities like Pan’s Labyrinth (disturbing-disturbing-disturbing). Most know him from his Hellboy movies. Ah, the Hellboy movies. They were awesome, not least because of the amazing creatures in them. And also, this:

Hellboy Side note: What I heard is that the trilogy was never finished due to a falling out between Del Toro and the comic’s creator, leading to Del Toro losing the rights to it. Now, I mention this because The Shape of Water’s star sea-creature reminds me a lot of Hellboy’s sidekick, Abe Sapien (much different treatment, but we’ll get to that). Don’t believe me? Well, you decide:


Okay, okay, I’ll quit with the digressions.

What did I think of the movie?

It was, sadly, very meh for me. I kinda liked it but the more I reflected on it, the greater my disappointment became. I don’t want to spoiler too much but as you go along in the film, at some point you realize that you have the backstory for every freaking side character in this thing but you know next to NOTHING about the two main characters. You know, these two:


The movie barely scratched the surface on their dynamic, to the point that I didn’t feel the bond between them hardly at all. And I soooo wanted to, you guys! Examining what it means to be human as we understand it–intelligent, self-aware, empathetic–is so much fun in stories, especially in ones like these where there’s a non-human protagonist. Is he just an animal like the lab people believe? Or is he more? Is he simply a different sort of sentient creature, one who thinks differently than we do but is capable of joy and sadness and love like we are? One who can see past the exterior to the person within and find something beautiful?

The movie wanted to address these questions but didn’t actually get to it, too busy with all the quirky side character stories that I didn’t give a crap about in comparison. It vacillated between showing the sea creature as a wild animal–no wait! an intelligent being–nope, need a humorous moment, so he’s an animal–to such a degree that I started to feel a little weird about the romance. Kinda like, yeah, he’s incredible, but seals are cute too and I wouldn’t give them the side-eye.

I mean, I get what they were trying to do with themes of communication and love, how all the characters who could communicate verbally were more closed off and isolated from one another than a woman without the ability to speak aloud. I saw that, I did. And I really liked that the heroine had a disability, that while we did see her struggle to deal mainstream society, she was the strongest one in the show, the one with the most clarity and honesty. And they didn’t “fix” her at the end (high kudos on that point). It’s because of these themes that the film is winning awards, but from the perspective of emotional engagement and storytelling…meh.

Here’s the preview below. Definitely grabs your attention. If only it could hold on to it while you’re watching the actual movie *sigh*

Has anyone else seen it? What did you think?