Sound Off! The Shape of Water

Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, embrace your differences and discuss The Shape of Water, which premiered in the United States on Friday, December 8, 2017 (wide release on Friday, December 22, 2017).

Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.

Now, join Kendra Merritt as she talks about The Shape of Water. [Note: Spoiler-free!]

Kendra: I’m not that familiar with Guillermo del Toro, just enough that I was expecting something a little weird and a little violent. But I wasn’t expecting the ethereal beauty of this movie. The composition, the cinematography, the colors. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much. The whole thing was teal, and teal is my favorite color. It also reminded me of Bioshock in more ways than one. It felt very much like the fifties seen through a sci-fi filter and a curtain of water.

And it wasn’t just stunning visually. All the characterization, especially that of the protagonist, was handled beautifully. Eliza is mute, although not deaf, and communicates through sign language. I’ll admit her disability was the main reason I wanted to see this so badly, and I’m so glad it didn’t disappoint. I love a director who can develop a character so deeply in just a few short scenes. By the end of Eliza’s work day we know that she loves music and dancing, and  she isn’t afraid of dismembered body parts. And oh my gosh, I love her.

She isn’t a master of non-verbal communication because she’s studied it. It’s just the way she lives her life, through sign language, but also through music and movement. So of course she is going to be the one to connect with and love another creature who can’t understand us or make himself understood in the ways we are used to. For the scientists around them, communication is out of reach. For Eliza, it’s just a step away from the way she lives every day.

And this is how disability should be portrayed. Every time. As a piece of a whole. Eliza is so much more than just her disability and at the same time she isn’t complete without it. Guillermo del Toro really seemed to understand this balance. The fact that she was mute wasn’t thrown in as a vain attempt to make her more interesting, or haunted, or whatever other meaningless excuse is used. It was a vital part of the story and the reason Eliza was the hero of the story instead of someone else.

This sort off intricate characterization was present for every friend and foe who was part of the story. They all stepped onto the screen fully human, with their own agenda and a part to play that was moving and believable. The bad guy was truly terrifying, and I found myself hoping the Soviets would actually win. An impressive feat in a movie set during the Cold War.

In short, I really loved this movie. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going into it, but I came out with chills. This isn’t the kind of adventure romance I normally love, but it is something I’ll watch over and over to catch the intricate details I missed the first time.

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