The Shape of Water

5 Overall Score
Performances: 4/10
Production: 8/10
Writing: 3/10

It has high production values.

The writing, the plot, the concept, and the total lack of romantic chemistry between the girl and the aquatic life form.


The Shape Of Water

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Stars: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones
Fox Searchlight Pictures

At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

Elisa Fucks A Fishboy is unremittingly, unforgivably awful. It’s boring, predictable, too long, off-putting, high-handed, and un-engaging. And in spite of the fact that the central relationship is between a janitor and her ichthyological love-thing, it isn’t even accidentally hilarious.

The premise is that in the 1960s—everything looks like the 1930s, but there is a reference to the Cuban Missile Crisis that dates the film very specifically—a fish/man type thing is held in captivity in an American government lab. Elisa Esposito, played by the very interesting Sally Hawkins, is the mute, humble lab-mopper who falls in love with the creature, humps it more than once, and bravely rescues it from its military tormentors.

Michael Shannon is absolutely wasted in the role of Richard Strickland, the intelligence officer in charge of the project. Yes, he’s brutal and menacing. He’s also wooden like a redwood, if redwoods were two dimensional instead of possessed of depth. Who are the bad guys? The racist, homophobic straight white men—especially the ones in the military. Who are the heroes? The LGBT and minority characters. And the Russian spy. But while director Del Toro is shaking this SJW finger in your face, he’s also relying on the groaning, shuddering old racial trope of a character like Zelda Fuller, portrayed by Octavia Spencer; a brave, loyal, wise, hardworking and much-cheated-by-the-world black woman who spouts wisdom and stuff.

And speaking of fingers, that’s a hell of a lot of set-up and suspense they go through just so Shannon can throw his on the floor.

This movie is—one guesses?—a love story. When the love story in a love story doesn’t work, then the story doesn’t work. And this story absolutely does not work. Somehow, the adorable Elisa’s personal life is so empty that the fishboy looks like a good option. She feeds it. She plays it records. She fucks it. She decides that it is her life partner, even though it has no personality of any kind. It likes hard-boiled eggs with a side of raw house-cat. It has no plans, no feelings, no nothing, except that it doesn’t like being jabbed with a cattle prod. It has no ability to communicate beyond a very few hand gestures and unsheathing its scaly erection, and we in the audience are supposed to applaud when Elisa dives in.

Guillermo Del Toro has clearly sailed past that dangerous moment in a creative’s career where no one tells them no anymore. Someone should have told him to throw this bestiality idea right back. That this shipwreck is up for Best Picture could only happen in a country and an era as crazy as this one.


Author: Brian Downes View all posts by
Brian Downes is a writer who lives in Orlando, Florida. His novel, The Berlin Fraternity, about a man who hunts vampires for the Third Reich, is available on the Kindle and through He enjoys pen and paper roleplaying games and geek culture. He clearly remembers waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to hit theaters, and vindicate his opinion that of course Vader was not Luke's father. You can't trust Vader's word!

Leave A Response