Rated: R
Release Date: 12/08/2017
Production Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Producers: Guillermo del Toro, David Greenbaum, Matthew Greenfield and Daniel Kraus. Executive Producer: Liz Sayre. Screenwriters: Guillermo del Torro and Vanessa Taylor. Cinematographer: Dan Lausten.
By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

A few years ago, I sat down with director/screenwriter
Guillermo del Toro
in San Francisco and asked him how he comes up with such fascinating ideas and characters for his movies.
He chuckled and said as a kid he always had a very active and vivid imagination and it has just “matured” over the years.

Lucky for us, del Toro’s wellspring of creativity/maturity has been on display ever since his 1993, debut film, “Cronos” and his critically acclaimed creature features “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006).

However, it’s his latest movie, “The Shape of Water” that’s generating plenty of buzz. The film premiered this year at the Venice International Film Festival and earned the top prize. It was shown plenty of love at Telluride (Colorado) and Toronto too.

Most importantly, “The Shape of Water” received 14 nominations from the BFCA/Critics’ Choice Awards including: “Best Director” and “Best Original Screenplay” (Del Toro), “Best Picture,” “Best Actress” (Sally Hawkins), “Best Supporting Actress” (Octavia Spencer) and “Best Supporting Actor” (Richard Jenkins).

“The Shape of Water” will also land prominently on’s year-end Top 20 Movies list.

Here’s why.

Like most of del Toro’s films, “The Shape of Water” is captivating and unpredictable, but this magical, romantic fantasy feels like his most passionate, cinematic achievement yet.

“The Shape of Water” is set in Baltimore 1962 against the backdrop of Cold War era America. It’s here we meet Elisa Esposito, (Sally Hawkins, “Paddington 2”) who was violently abused as an orphan child and had her vocal chords cut out.

Now mute, Elisa makes a decent living working at a high-security underground, government facility.

Aside from her friendly co-worker, Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer, “Gifted”) and her cat loving neighbor Giles (an excellent Richard Jenkins, TV’s “Berlin Station” and “Comrade Detective”), Elisa is pretty much a loner. She enjoys her cozy apartment, taking relaxing baths and watching musicals on her small TV.

But, Elisa’s life takes a lively and lovely dramatic turn when an odd looking, sinewy creature in a metal cage known as “The Asset/Amphibian Man” (Doug Jones, TV’s “Star Trek: Discovery” is hauled into her office.

Colonel Richard Strickland, (Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”) oversees the creature research team that found the Amphibian Man in the Amazon. The colonel and lab scientist, Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg, “The Post”) plan to conduct an experiment on it which will give the United States a leg up on scientific research.

However, the colonel is not as sympathetic towards the blue tinted being and abuses it with an electric cattle prod. Thankfully Dr. Hoffstetler has much more compassion toward it. Then again, he has some ulterior motives at play here too.

Elisa, has bigger and better plans for the creature. During her nightly rounds, she summons Zelda (Spencer) to help her free it from its cramped water tank. Oddly, Elisa becomes enraptured by this squishy thing. She even flirts with him, feeds him hard-boiled eggs, teaches him sign language and turns him on to Benny Goodman records.

Is there anything possibly more romantic?

Not in del Toro’s mystical and magical world. Elisa and the creature fall madly in love and Elisa is hell-bent on protecting her new, romantic interest at all costs especially since some Russian operatives have discovered the agency’s location and are coming after him.

Hawkins delivers a genuinely heart-felt performance. The wonderful, weird and erotic attraction she has with the creature and the twisty storyline and characters all make the “The Shape of Water” really soar.

It’s another cinematic marvel from the ever “maturing” mind of Guillermo del Toro.

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch my movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:40 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.

Take A Peek At This Trailer For "THE SHAPE OF WATER"

Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.


Brian's Song Title: Brian's Song
Year Released: 1971
Running Time: 90
Production Company: Screen Gems (Sony)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Director of Photography: Joseph F. Biroc
Screenwriter: Gale Sayers, Al Silverman and William Blinn
Author: Lana K. Wilson-Combs

REVIEW: This Review Reprinted In Honor Of Movie Critic Bill Gibron--May 14, 1961--May 11, 2018. Pictured Top Left.

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