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AndersonVision Best Films of 2017: #1 – THE SHAPE OF WATER (20th Century Fox)


“The Shape of Water” asks a lot of its audience. Not on the cerebral level, but in terms of what you’ll accept. Michael Shannon channels Nicolas Cage in his prime, Richard Jenkins does his best Morgan Freeman and Sally Hawkins loves fish like she’s Troy McClure. Yet, it does what all genre film fans wanted. This will be the movie that elevates Guillermo del Toro into cinematic pay dirt. It’s almost like 12 years ago, people thought “Pan’s Labyrinth” was a fluke.

While battling between Netflix shows and Peter Jackson jobbers, it felt like fans lost their hold on Guillermo del Toro. When he did “Pacific Rim”, it didn’t feel authentic. While Eastern genre entertainment enthusiasts got their giant robot attack action, it almost felt like the monster movie fan was cheating on us. Kaiju don’t count, people. What happened to the guy that kept promising big-budget Lovecraft adaptations? Hell, why couldn’t Universal give him The Mummy? I wanted del Toro to bring heart to my monsters. Then, he did it.

The Shape of Water is a Cold War period piece that merges romantic fantasy, spy thrills and slight eroticism to capture your attention. Was there a purpose for the US Government having the creature? While feeding her fishy beau some eggs, our heroine (Sally Hawkins) seems as perplexed by his imprisonment as the audience. When we learn what he can do, it doesn’t make sense to keep him from a military standpoint. But, this is a fairy tale about a fish man and his mute lady. If you start harping on the minutia, then you’re going to miss the fingers being severed.

There is a deal of gore to be had, but it’s handled in a direct matter. Violence and sexuality happen to punch up a moment rather than being the moment. While Disney got to revisit the slight bestiality/Stockholm Syndrome tale in “Beauty and the Beast”, del Toro pushed the matter harder. Doug Jones’ creature is an animal that functions higher than most. The ability to meet a common ground is what spurs the romance with Sally Hawkins. The bestiality aspects give way, as the human lady willingly forsakes the bounds of humanity to be with the one she loves.

What was gross underpinning in “Beauty and the Beast” becomes something damning here. If being a human doesn’t work, then try something else. The fact that a romance depends on leaving humanity behind is almost mythic. Hell, I’d go so far as to call this the first major fantasy of the 21st century. Check it out, people.


  • 2 hrs and 3 minutes
  • R
  • 20th Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: 12/22/17

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