TLDNW: The Shape of Water

The phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) is for posts on the Internet that you want to know about but can’t be bothered to read. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2018 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

 BONUS: This year, I’ve added bonus content baby! This year I will be reading each review in a podcast format if you don’t even time to READ. There will be a podcast of me reading each review and THEN a bonus podcast where I discuss the film with a fellow film friend.

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Thoughtful

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

I never knew the story of one woman’s dream to just go to town on a fish could be so dang beautiful.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

I had a conversation with a friend today where we talked about how a couple of the movies we saw this year were disappointing because they focused too much on characters we didn’t care about. Mudbound for instance would have been a much more interesting film if it focused solely on the tank driver. Coco, he argued, would have been really interesting if told from the grandfather’s perspective. We came to the conclusion that sometimes trying to tell everyone’s story waters down the story you actually want to tell.

This is NOT the case for Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece The Shape of Water. This was, without a doubt, my favourite movie of the year.

The Shape of Water is the story of Eliza, a janitorial staff, who works at a cold war-era American asset bunker. One day they bring in an amphibious man and hope to study it and use it to defeat Russia. Eliza, a mute, feels an instant connection to the creature and the two of them begin a romance.

At one point in the film Michael Stuhlbarg, who is my favourite underrated actor of the year, says about the Amphibian Man “I do not want a beautiful, intricate thing destroyed!” And that is exactly what The Shape of Water is – beautiful and intricate. It’s like an incredibly made suit or a symphony. Every piece works so hard to find harmony and dissonance – not a single note is out of place.

The acting alone holds the film up (though it doesn’t have to). Sally Hawkins gives her most moving performance yet as the mute Eliza. Her opening sequence is edited as tightly as an Edgar Wright sequence and the scene in which she convinced Richard Jenkins’ character to help her is one of the finest pieces of acting of the year. Richard Jenkins, who earned his long awaited second nomination for this role, plays the part beautifully. His closeted gay Giles is the emotional anchor in this otherwise fanciful universe. The fascination and excitement Jenkins brings to Giles is a subtle masterpiece. Michael Shannon, my SECOND favourite underrated actor of the year, gives a classic Michael Shannon performance and brings a violence and energy that drives the entire plot in such a compelling way. Even Octavia Spencer, who has started to feel a little bit like a Meryl Streep in the supporting actress category, brings a solid a reliable performance. None of these characters could exist without the others. They all balance each other in a way that is so utterly thoughtful. Like the stiches in a dress, none is more important than the others.

The score is marvellous. As I write this I’m listening to Alexandre Desplat’s fantastic and subtle score. The use of whistles and accordion to provide another layer of fairy-tale pastiche is beautiful. I am hoping for a Johnny Greenwood spoiler, but the best original score trophy is Desplat’s to lose.

The final piece of the puzzle, however, comes in the shape of Guillermo Del Toro. The finesse with which Del Toro directed The Shape of Water is in itself a master class in production. Each shot, and costume and prop and hint is so subtly are carefully implanted that it feels seamless. I heard recently that in order to create the feel of Eliza and Giles’ apartments Del Toro painted the walls, and then wall papered them, and then chipped away that wallpaper to reveal the paint. This is the sort of thoughtful detail that will win Del Toro the best director statue on Sunday.

I don’t like when I hear people talk about how “weird” this movie is. I don’t like when people dismiss the thoughtful work that went into this lush masterpiece because they can’t get over the love between Eliza and the Amphibian Man. Their love is important yes, and this is a love story, but there is so much at play here and I encourage anyone who is doubtful to watch this movie again, and then again, and again and again – I certainly plan on it.

Here are the podcasts:

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