The Shape of Water

Critics Consensus

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.



Total Count: 421


Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,058
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Movie Info

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER - an other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

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Sally Hawkins
as Elisa Esposito
Michael Shannon
as Strickland
Doug Jones
as Amphibian Man
Michael Stuhlbarg
as Robert Hoffstetler
Lauren Lee Smith
as Elaine Strickland
Nick Searcy
as General Hoyt
Nigel Bennett
as Mihalkov
Martin Roach
as Brewster Fuller
John Kapelos
as Mr. Arzoumanian
Morgan Kelly
as Pie Guy
Marvin Kaye
as Burly Russian
Dru Viergever
as Military Policeman
Wendy Lyon
as Sally (Secretary)
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Critic Reviews for The Shape of Water

All Critics (421) | Top Critics (54) | Fresh (388) | Rotten (33)

  • Hawkins's performance throughout is career-defining. With her eyes, mouth and physicality, she finds a level of emotional eloquence to render speech redundant.

    Feb 16, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • All plot holes can be subsumed within the magical-realist tone for which Del Toro is famed. Yet there's an uncomfortable tension between the film's whimsical, Amélie-light (or, lighter) style and its clumsy political point-scoring.

    Feb 15, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The Shape of Water almost drowns in its own gorgeousness. It is a Beauty and the Beast fable where both get to be beautiful and neither has to be beastly.

    Feb 15, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Del Toro's greatest work. Simply magnificent.

    Feb 14, 2018 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • ... Del Toro's willingness to court absurdity and bad taste serves to guarantee his integrity, proving he hasn't entirely gone respectable.

    Jan 19, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The movie's worldview is as easy to like as the protagonist and her friends, but del Toro lays it on so thick that there's no room for counterargument or even independent thought.

    Dec 26, 2017 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Shape of Water

  • Jul 08, 2019
    Guillermo del Toro is one of those filmmakers I'd love to spend hours with talking movies. His passion for the art form is infectious. Not being able to do that, at least I can watch The Shape of Water over and over again. It's a love story about a woman and a beast. But, the real love story is about the moviemaking. Del Toro's zeal for using all the moviemaker's tool are in full display.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Mar 17, 2019
    Peter B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 22, 2018
    Del Toro's direction saves this film from be a terrible film but it's no a great film like many people says.
    Fernando M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2018
    With this movie, I have now watched all of Guillermo Del Toro's filmography. I don't know if I've reviewed every single one of his movies that I've seen on Rotten Tomatoes, but I may end up posting the reviews on Letterboxd at some point or another. Regardless, my fandom of Del Toro actually dates back to 2003-2004ish, when I was around 15 or 16 years old. I remember I had this Spanish teacher at school and one time she was talking about this movie, raving about it really, and that movie was El Espinazo Del Diablo or, as you gringos know it, The Devil's Backbone. There was a Blockbuster Video (that's how old I am, Blockbuster was still a thing and I regularly visited the store) literally across the street from my school. So, one of those times me and my aunt went to Blockbuster, I found The Devil's Backbone and we rented it. And, naturally, I loved the movie then and I still love the movie now. As someone who is now 30, I have now been a fan of Guillermo Del Toro's work for half of my life and it's a fandom that I will carry until Del Toro decides to retire. I think I would, quite easily, place him in my top five of favorite filmmakers of all time. Takashi Miike, Guillermo Del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Park Chan-wook and Tarantino. Those aren't placed in any real particular order, but that's just how they came to mind to me. The first two of those, however, Del Toro and Miike aren't on that list for their filmography per se. Don't get me wrong Del Toro's filmography is top-notch but, as an example, Mimic isn't great (though I don't blame Del Toro for that as much as studio interference) and Crimson Peak is only just good. The reason I place him there has as much to do with his unique visual style, his fantastical settings, the creatures that inhabit his incredibly detailed and impressive worlds and the writing. He's a man who clearly an auteur. He's got a very distinctive style that makes it every easy to pick up on which film are his. I didn't need to know who the director of this film was to point out that it seems precisely like the sort of thing Del Toro would do. This brings us to this lovely, lovely movie, however and how it stacks up against his filmography. Most people have said that this is Del Toro's best work since El Laberinto del Fauno and, honestly, I'm inclined to agree with that. I don't think it surpasses Laberinto, but it's the film in his filmography that has come closest to it. I think one of the things I noticed more about the reactions to this movie is how many people, immediately, went to the fact that ***MAJOR SPOILERS*** Elisa, in fact, fell in love and had sex with an amphibian man. One of the first reviews on Letterboxd mentioned the fact that Elisa's friends didn't kinkshame her for doing it and how this person needs the same love and support from her friends. And, admittedly, it is a funny meme review and I'm certain that this particular person knows what the movie is about anyway, it's just a funny review to get likes on Letterboxd. The thing is that plenty of other people, essentially, summed down the movie to just that. It's a movie about a woman who fucks a 'fish', even though there's a difference between amphibians and fishes. Regardless, summarizing the film to something as simple as that is sort of, honestly, missing the point about the movie and they simply did not bother to look beyond the film's outward appearance, they didn't bother looking into the film on a deeper level and understand the connection that was built between Elisa and the amphibian man. In short, I think this really is one of the loveliest romance stories I've seen in quite some time. But, once again, what the movie does quite best is give voice to the voiceless, in this case quite literally as Elisa cannot speak. Another reason why, I feel, the film works is the fact that all of its major characters are in a state of loneliness. The film's main theme IS loneliness. Elisa is lonely as a result of the fact that she's mute and her feeling that she won't be able to connect with someone else, as they might see her limitations instead of who she is. Giles, Elisa's best friend, is a struggling illustrator who also happens to be a gay man in the 60s, when that was looked down upon even more so than it is now in some states. Zelda, Elisa's co-worker as a cleaner at this secret government lab, has an useless husband who does nothing around the house but watch TV. Strickland, a colonel who is in charge of the project to study the asset (ie: the amphibian man) is a workaholic who is distant with his wife and children. And, finally, Dimitri is a Soviet spy who does not feel at home in the U.S nor with his own people as they are actively trying to undermine the project by eliminating the asset. So, again, you can see how all of these people, in their own way, are all struggling with their loneliness, even if we're shown the movie, mostly, from Elisa's point of view. Water, quite OBVIOUSLY, is very important to the themes the movie is attempting to demonstrate. Every few minutes, there's the constant reminder of water thrown in your face. And, to me, I think that plays precisely into the loneliness these characters feels. I don't think there's a lonelier place in the world than in the vast expanse of the ocean. In many ways, you could make the argument that Elisa and the amphibian man were in the same ocean and even with how vast and empty it is, they managed to find each other. And, honestly, that's just lovely storytelling to me. But, of course, not all is flowers and sunshine as the movie, which is set against the backdrop of the Cold War, sees the Soviets and the U.S covertly fight against the other to gain control of the 'asset', as they want to study them to see if it can give them an advantage against the other. There comes a point when both the U.S and the Soviets both want to kill the amphibian man and this is when Elisa springs into action to save him, with help from Giles, Dimitri and Zelda, from the laboratory and release him back to the ocean at a later date. As far as villains go, I think Michael Shannon does a phenomenal job as Strickland. Like I said earlier, he is a man who is fully concentrated on the job at hand, he needs to get the results no matter what. I think it's an interesting story to tell because when the amphibian man is freed from the lab, Strickland goes to his higher ups and essentially tells him that, regardless of how well he may have performed or gotten results in the past, that this one fuck up, if he doesn't fix things before it's too late, will end up destroying his entire career. So, really, Strickland is not a man that is driven by his own personal motivations. I mean, technically, he is, but he is driven by the fact that he always gets the job done, no matter what. Michael Shannon, as always, plays this role tremendously with the quiet intensity that is required to make Strickland an incredibly threatening character. Sally Hawkins is absolutely phenomenal as Elisa, she delivers a nuanced, sympathetic and, in a word that I'm using quite a lot, lovely performance. One of the best scenes in the entire movie is Elisa explaining to Giles, in sign language while Giles repeats what she says out loud, why she cares so much for the amphibian man and Sally is so amazing here. She conveys complex emotions without ever uttering a single word. It is a beautiful scene. Another one of my personal favorites is the black and white song and dance that Elisa does, she 'sings' the song in sign language, while it turns to black and white and, in a dream sequence, Elisa's voice is heard for the first and only time in the movie, and she and the amphibian man share a dance together. I hate to keep repeating myself, but it is a lovely scene. I think the movie itself might have been received 'negatively' by people who expected a more straightforward monster movie. Technically we got one, if you consider Strickland the real monster of the movie which, in a way, he definitely was given his actions. I think the marketing material, in my opinion, made it clear that it wasn't gonna be a conventional creature feature and that's not Del Toro's style anyway, you knew it wasn't gonna be what some people might have expected. But that doesn't diminish the impact this film has made in any significant way. It might be different than what a lot of people expected, but it's still a fantastic movie. Del Toro's visual style remains intact and this very much contains that very distinctive touch. In many ways, however, visually at least, it reminds me of a movie that Jean-Pierre Jeunet would make. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Jeunet directed Amelie, Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children (latter of which I have on DVD, but haven't watched yet). I don't know if Del Toro drew inspiration from Mr. Jeunet, but the visual similarities are there. I don't mean this as a criticism, of course, just thought it was something worth pointing out. It still feels very much like a Del Toro movie, that much is obvious. Long story short, I thought this was a fantastic and lovely movie. It's a movie that has been simplified to tell this narrative of the fact that it's the 'fish fucking' movie which, again, misses the point of the story this movie tells. And that is a real fucking shame, because this is a beautiful love story. An emotionally charged, tremendously acted, wonderfully shot and intelligent love story. In many ways this is also a tribute to the old Hollywood classics and you know that the classics never get old. So, for that, to use a classic old meme, this is still a better love story than Twilight. Ah, like I said, the classics (memes) never get old.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer

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