The Shape of Water (film)

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The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water (film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Produced by
  • Guillermo del Toro
  • J. Miles Dale
Screenplay by
Story by Guillermo del Toro
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Dan Laustsen
Edited by Sidney Wolinsky
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • August 31, 2017 (2017-08-31) (Venice)
  • December 1, 2017 (2017-12-01) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
Country United States
Budget $19.5 million[2]
Box office $92.3 million[3]

The Shape of Water is a 2017 American fantasy drama film[3][4] directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor.[3][4] The film stars Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer. Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid-amphibian creature.

The film was screened in the main competition section of the 74th Venice International Film Festival, where it premiered on August 31, 2017,[5] and was awarded the Golden Lion for best film in the competition.[6] It also screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.[7] The film received praise for its performances, screenplay, direction, production design, and musical score. Many critics declared it del Toro's best film since Pan's Labyrinth.[8]

The Shape of Water began a limited release in two theaters in New York City on December 1, 2017, before expanding starting December 8, 2017, and has grossed $91 million worldwide.[9] A novelized adaptation of the film, written by del Toro and Daniel Kraus, will be released on February 27, 2018.[10]

The American Film Institute selected it as one of the top 10 films of the year.[11] At the 90th Academy Awards, the film received a leading 13 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress for Hawkins, Best Supporting Actor for Jenkins, and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer. It also won for Best Director and Best Original Score at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, on top of five other nominations.[12] At the 71st British Academy Film Awards, the film received 12 nominations, including Best Film, and won three awards, including Best Director.[13]


Elisa Esposito (Hawkins), found as a child with mysterious scars on her neck, is mute and communicates through sign language. Living alone in an apartment above a movie theater, she works as a janitor at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore during the Cold War in 1962. Her only two friends are her next door neighbor, Giles (Jenkins), a struggling gay advertisement illustrator, and her co-worker, Zelda (Spencer), an African-American woman who also serves as her interpreter at work.

The facility receives a creature in a tank, which has been captured from a South American river by Colonel Richard Strickland (Shannon). Curious, Elisa discovers that the creature is a humanoid amphibian (Jones) and begins visiting the creature in secret, forming a close bond with it.

Seeking to exploit the creature for possible advantages in the Space Race, General Frank Hoyt (Searcy) orders Strickland to vivisect it. One scientist, Robert Hoffstetler (Stuhlbarg), who is secretly a Soviet spy, pleads unsuccessfully to keep the creature alive for further study and, at the same time, is ordered by his Soviet spymasters to euthanize the creature. Elisa learns what the Americans' plan is for the creature, and she convinces Giles to help free him. Hoffstetler discovers Elisa's plot and chooses to help her. Zelda becomes involved as the escape becomes successful.

Elisa keeps the creature in her bathtub, adding large amounts of table salt to the water, planning to release him into a nearby canal when it opens to the ocean in several days. As part of his efforts to recover the creature, Strickland interrogates Elisa and Zelda, but the failure of his advance towards Elisa hampers his judgment, and he dismisses them. Back at the apartment, Giles discovers the creature eating one of his cats. Startled, the creature slashes Giles' arm and bolts from the apartment. The creature gets as far as the cinema downstairs before Elisa finds him and returns him to her apartment. The creature touches Giles on his balding head and his wounded arm, and the next morning, Giles discovers that his hair has partly grown back and the wounds on his arm are healed. Elisa and the creature soon become romantically involved, having sex in her bathroom which she at one point floods for him.

Hoyt gives Strickland an ultimatum to recover the creature within 36 hours. Meanwhile, Hoffstetler is told by his handlers that he will be extracted in two days. As the planned release date approaches, the creature's health starts deteriorating. As Hoffstetler leaves to rendezvous with his handlers, Strickland tails him. Hoffstetler is shot by one of his handlers, but Strickland shoots the handlers dead, and then tortures Hoffstetler for information. Hoffstetler implicates Elisa and Zelda before he dies from his wounds. Strickland then threatens Zelda in her home, causing her terrified husband to reveal that Elisa had been keeping the creature. Strickland searches Elisa's apartment and finds a calendar note revealing where she is taking the creature.

At the canal Elisa and Giles bid farewell to the creature, but Strickland arrives and attacks them all. Strickland knocks Giles down and shoots the creature and Elisa, who both appear to die. However, the creature heals himself and slashes Strickland's throat. As police arrive on the scene with Zelda, the creature takes Elisa and jumps into the canal, where deep under water he heals her and transforms her neck scars into gills. In a closing narration, Giles expresses his belief that Elisa lived ‘happily ever after’ with the creature.



The Gill-man in Creature from the Black Lagoon was an inspiration to del Toro's concept.

The idea for The Shape of Water formed during del Toro's breakfast with Daniel Kraus in 2011, with whom he later co-wrote the novel Trollhunters.[14] It shows similarities to the 2015 short film The Space Between Us,[15] and also to Rachel Ingalls' novel Mrs. Caliban. It was also primarily inspired by del Toro's childhood memories of seeing Creature from the Black Lagoon and wanting to see Gill-man and Kay Lawrence (played by Julie Adams) succeed in their romance.[16] When del Toro was in talks with Universal to direct a remake of Creature from the Black Lagoon, he tried pitching a version focused more on the creature's perspective, where the Creature ended up together with the female lead, but the studio executives rejected the concept.[17]

Del Toro set the film during the 1960s Cold War era to counteract today's heightened tensions, specifying, "if I say once upon a time in 1962, it becomes a fairy tale for troubled times. People can lower their guard a little bit more and listen to the story and listen to the characters and talk about the issues, rather than the circumstances of the issues."[18]

Filming began on August 15, 2016[19][20][21] in Hamilton, Ontario,[22] and wrapped on November 6, 2016.[23]

Alexandre Desplat is the composer of the film's score.[24]

In an interview with IndieWire about the film, del Toro said, "This movie is a healing movie for me. ... For nine movies I rephrased the fears of my childhood, the dreams of my childhood, and this is the first time I speak as an adult, about something that worries me as an adult. I speak about trust, otherness, sex, love, where we're going. These are not concerns that I had when I was nine or seven."[25]


Box office

As of February 18, 2018, The Shape of Water has grossed $53.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $39.9 million in other countries, for a total of $91.9 million.[3]

After grossing $4.6 million over three weeks of limited release, the film began its wide release on December 22, 2017, alongside the openings of Downsizing, Pitch Perfect 3 and Father Figures, and the wide expansion of Darkest Hour, and grossed $3 million from 726 theaters over the weekend, and $4.4 million over the four-day Christmas frame.[26] The following weekend, the film made $3.5 million.[27] The weekend of January 27, 2018, following the announcement of the film's 13 Oscar nominations, the film was added to over 1,000 theaters (for a total of 1,854) and made $5.9 million (an increase of 171% over the previous week's $2.2 million), finishing 8th.[28]

Critical response

Sally Hawkins' performance garnered widespread critical acclaim and earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% based on 328 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best—and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance."[29] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 53 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[30] According to CinemaScore, audience members under the age of 40 gave the film an average grade of either "A+" or "A", while those over 40 gave it an "A" or "A–", on an A+ to F scale.[31] ComScore reported audiences gave the film an overall positive score of 80%.[32]

Ben Croll of IndieWire gave the film an A and called it "one of del Toro's most stunningly successful works... also a powerful vision of a creative master feeling totally, joyously free."[33] Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, praising Hawkins's performance, the cinematography and del Toro's direction, and saying: "Even as the film plunges into torment and tragedy, the core relationship between these two unlikely lovers holds us in thrall. Del Toro is a world-class film artist. There's no sense trying to analyze how he does it."[34]

In Minnesota Daily, Haley Bennett reacted positively, writing, "The Shape of Water has tenderness uncommon to del Toro films. ... While The Shape of Water isn't groundbreaking, it is elegant and mesmerizing."[18]

Top ten lists

The Shape of Water was listed on many critics' top ten lists.[35]



  1. ^ "The Shape of Water". tiff. Retrieved August 31, 2017. 
  2. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (November 21, 2017). "Spirit Awards: 'Call Me by Your Name,' 'Get Out' Soar, 'Shape of Water' Shunned Again". Variety. Retrieved November 21, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The Shape of Water (2017)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 18, 2018. 
  4. ^ a b "The Shape of Water". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved December 19, 2017. 
  5. ^ Anderson, Ariston (July 27, 2017). "Venice Competition Includes Films From George Clooney, Guillermo del Toro, Darren Aronofsky". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 27, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water wins Venice Golden Lion". The Guardian. Retrieved September 9, 2017. 
  7. ^ "Toronto Film Festival 2017 Unveils Strong Slate". Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  8. ^ Kiang, Jessica (August 31, 2017). "Guillermo Del Toro's 'The Shape of Water' Is Sweet & Scary Movie Magic [Venice Review]". The Playlist. Retrieved September 7, 2017. 
  9. ^ McNary, Dave. "Guillermo del Toro's 'Shape of Water' Gets Awards Season Release Date". Variety. Retrieved April 19, 2017. 
  10. ^ "The Shape of Water Novel Does Much, Much More Than Adapt the Movie". Gizmodo. December 6, 2017. Retrieved December 7, 2017. 
  11. ^ "AFI Awards 2017". AFI. Retrieved December 8, 2017. 
  12. ^ Rubin, Rebecca (December 11, 2017). "Golden Globe Nominations: Complete List". Variety. Retrieved December 11, 2017. 
  13. ^ "The Shape of Water leads Bafta nominations". BBC News. January 9, 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2018. 
  14. ^ del Toro, Guillermo [@RealGDT] (August 22, 2017). "Shape of Water- first birthed over a looong breakfast with @DanielDKraus in 2011. It shows next week at the Venice Film Festival" (Tweet). Retrieved August 25, 2017 – via Twitter. 
  15. ^ "Is 'The Shape of Water' Cribbed Directly From the Short Film 'The Space Between Us'?". AwardsWatch. August 18, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  16. ^ "The Iconic Horror Movie Scene That Inspired 'The Shape of Water' – Bloody Disgusting". Retrieved October 16, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Del Toro Talks Black Lagoon Influence On "Shape"". Retrieved November 20, 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Bennett, Haley (December 15, 2017). "'Review: The Shape of Water' Mermaid film noir sounds like a fishy genre, but director Guillermo del Toro navigates it with skill". Minnesota Daily. Retrieved December 15, 2017. 
  19. ^ del Toro, Guillermo [@RealGDT] (August 10, 2016). "We start shooting The Shape of Water on Monday. I will tweet some images now and then--" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  20. ^ Evry, Max (August 15, 2016). "Shape of Water: Guillermo del Toro Begins Production". Retrieved May 17, 2017. 
  21. ^ del Toro, Guillermo [@RealGDT] (August 15, 2016). "4 PM in Toronto. Started" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  22. ^ "Guillermo Del Toro's staff plan Hamilton visit to talk film studio locations: mayor". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. September 13, 2017. Retrieved September 16, 2017. 
  23. ^ del Toro, Guillermo [@RealGDT] (November 7, 2016). "Wrapped shooting on The Shape of Water last night!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
  24. ^ "Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water Finds A Composer". December 27, 2016. Retrieved May 17, 2017. 
  25. ^ Marotta, Jenna (November 19, 2017). "Guillermo del Toro: 'The Shape of Water' Saved My Life". IndieWire. Retrieved December 10, 2017. 
  26. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 24, 2017). "Last Jedi' Lords Over Christmas Weekend B.O. With $100M+ As 'Jumanji' Roars $65M+ & 'Pitch Perfect 3' Sings $27M". Retrieved December 24, 2017. 
  27. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (December 31, 2017). "'Last Jedi' Has Upper Hand Over 'Jumanji' In New Year's Weekend Duel As 2017 B.O. Closes With $11.1B – Monday Update". Retrieved January 1, 2018. 
  28. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 28, 2018). "Fox Controls Close To 40% Of Weekend B.O. Led By 'Maze Runner' & Oscar Holdovers; 'Hostiles' Gallops Past $10M". Retrieved January 28, 2018. 
  29. ^ "The Shape of Water (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 21, 2018. 
  30. ^ "The Shape of Water reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 10, 2018. 
  31. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 8, 2017). "'Coco' Topping Another Sleepy Weekend Of Holdovers & Awards Season Breakouts Before 'Last Jedi' Takes Over B.O." Retrieved December 11, 2017. 
  32. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 29, 2018). "How Much Of A Box Office Boost Will The Nominees Get By Oscar Night?". Retrieved January 30, 2018. 
  33. ^ Croll, Ben (August 31, 2017). "'The Shape of Water' Review: Guillermo del Toro's Lush Fairy Tale Is a Powerful Vision of Love". Indiewire. Retrieved September 7, 2017. 
  34. ^ Travers, Peter (November 27, 2017). "'The Shape of Water' Review: Guillermo del Toro's Girl-Meets-Monster Romance Is a Gem". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 28, 2017. 
  35. ^ Dietz, Jason (December 5, 2017). "Best of 2017: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved January 30, 2018. 

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