Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Film: 'The Shape of Water'


I had apprehensions that this would be swirling in heavy sentiment, something I find hard to swallow in any film - and so it is to some extent. But I had no idea it would contain so much sheer nastiness of different types on several levels in a number of episodes throughout its two-hour length. There are tender moments, certainly, though for me they were eclipsed by a very dark element which made it almost unremittingly an extremely uncomfortable watch. In fact if I could have left without disturbing at least half a dozen others in the same row I might have made for the exit after the film's statutory two-thirds had been viewed - that being the minimum proportion I must attend in order to include it in my record as having been 'seen'. (Walking out before the end of any film is actually rarer than an annual happening for me).




Shot in Toronto and Hamilton (the latter being the home city of at least one of my esteemed blog-followers), Sally Hawkins, together with Octavia Spencer, (both very good indeed) is a mute cleaner in a government research centre where an amphibious, partly humanoid-looking creature, discovered in South America, is captured and brought to be experimented upon. She establishes a relationship with the 'creature' through sign language and the two of them develop a reciprocal infatuation.  
It's all spoilt by chief researcher Michael Shannon (appropriately repulsive) who gets a sadistic pleasure from inflicting pain on the being, causing Sally H. to want to give it back its freedom.
Richard Jenkins plays her gay and lonely, commercial-painter neighbour in the next-door flat - she being his sole friend - both living above a cinema.

Director Guillermo del Toro works suitable wonders with his vision where he needs to without overplaying his hand, though all the time I felt myself resisting against being so emotionally manipulated.

As I've emphasised a number of times in the past my verdict and rating is based not so much on the extent to which it is a 'good' film - and it is clearly a very accomplished one - but rather on the degree to which I enjoyed it as an 'entertainment' and it's only in that respect that I personally found it seriously wanting. Not to mince words, I thought it profoundly unpleasant. 

The film has now been lauded across the world. Just why the U.K. is one of the last to get to see it is a complete mystery to me. Now that I have witnessed what all the fuss has been about, I will say that it's a film which, once seen, won't be forgotten in a hurry - but I wish it had been.......................3.












28 comments:

  1. I already decided not to see this on seeing the trailer a few weeks ago. I thank you for confirming my thoughts. I went to see Loveless today, a Russian film, please go see it if it comes your way. Thank you for still listening to me.

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    1. Loveless is coming here in one month's time, but just for one screening and at 20.15, which is coming up to my habitual bedtime. I have heard good things about it so I'll check if there's a possibility for seeing it in Brighton at a more realistic (for me) time.
      And btw: of course I still listen to you. I'd be making myself the poorer if I didn't. ;-)

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    2. Loveless is my film of the year so far this year.

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    3. Suspect I may have missed the boat on this one, but haven't yet given up all hope.

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  2. My son had the exact same reaction when he saw it. Worse yet, he took a date to see it...he said it was such an awful "first-date" experience that you just had to laugh.

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    1. I honestly thought I'd be totally on my own with my reaction, Elle. I've yet to hear anyone say anything negative about it - your son being the very first - and I fully expect to be creating, if not actual enemies with my opinion, but certainly disappointments. What's the point in giving one's views if it's not from the heart?
      Yes, for a first date it could hardly be a worse choice.

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  3. Have you seen pans labyrinth? That had moments of truly horrifying movie moments but had glimpses of sweetness too.
    I will go and see this then review your review ( I only read your first sentence so it wouldn't colour my thoughts on the movie)

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    1. No, I haven't seen the Pan film, though I know that Mark Kermode raves about it, rating it as being the single greatest film of this century so far. I think it's been on telly a couple of times, though at unearthly hours. From your endorsement I want to see it even more now.
      I'll be surprised if you don't like 'Shape of Water' a great deal more than I did.

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  4. Now I have to say, I did enjoy the film only because I enjoy the kind of "odd" genre marterial the movie had, like the odd creature....and I adore Sally and Octavia, not to mention I'm a huge Guillermo del Toro fan. I do have Pans Labyrinth on dvd and must admit I did enjoy that film more. One of my top 10 films. I, for just me, would give Shape of Water a 6/7 out of 10....but I highly doubt in will take the Oscar. Seems to be a movie people like or hate...no in between.

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    1. Your view seems to have a clear majority, M.M., and I don't mind that in the least. Without trying to look for 'excuses' for me where none exist it may be one of those films that illustrate just how out of touch with contemporary film-makers I've become, largely on account of age - perhaps rather like my having given up on following pop music about 15 years ago for the very same reason.
      I wouldn't like to challenge your own enjoyment of a film such as this, even if it had made me depressed. However, I'm keener than ever to look out to see 'Pan's Labyrinth' when I can. At least if I catch it it'll be easier to stop watching if it gets me feeling too uncomfortable.

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  5. We liked it, and liked the dark, meanness to it because it pushed away what might have been sappy.
    I liked that it wasn't one way or the other, but kind of both.
    As for Oscar's Best Picture, I am still rooting for "THree Billboards."

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    1. I agree that it skilfully steered away from being too 'sappy', Bob, but although I can still enjoy a film that makes me squirm once or twice, those occasions took place too often for me to tolerate in this one. Clearly it works for some, even most people, and the fact that you are one of them (or two of them) doesn't surprise me at all. I only wish I could have joined you in that opinion.

      If 'Billboards' scoops the Oscar for 'Best Picture', as it very nearly certainly shall, I'll also be satisfied.

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  6. This is on at my local and I was all lined up to go see it, because I admire Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins. But then I changed my mind after reading a few reviews which commented on the darkness and cruelty I decided not my cuppa, and your review confirms my decision. These days I stick to "feel good" movies. Or at least "feel ok" movies! :)

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    1. It's films such as this, Judith, which is happening with increasing frequency, that gets me questioning why I'm spending money, time and effort only to be made miserable when I've got a myriad other reasons for doing just that, but which I generally manage to rise above. If I really must feed my cinema-going addiction I think I ought to be looking more sheer 'fun' films like the marvellously uplifting 'Paddington 2' where I'm leaving the cinema with a spring in my step.

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    2. That's how I feel too. I'm looking forward to seeing Paddington 2, I just loved P 1. I actually saw it twice, unprecedented! (And I usually can't stand children's films.)

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    3. Although I wasn't that struck by the first 'Padd', J, the second one more than made up for it - and I'm with you on avoiding 'kiddie' films. I've no doubt you'll find it at least just as joyful or, more likely, even better. I hope so.

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  7. I have not seen this film yet, but I'm very surprised at your negative reaction to it. I've heard it might very well win the best picture Oscar. From what I've seen, it sounded like a fairly original premise and was looking forward to eventually seeing it. Now, I don't know if I even want to see it at all.

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    1. I think you ought to see it, Mark. I wouldn't be happy if what I said would put anyone off about any film at all - that is, unless you're like me in finding no 'entertainment' in the depiction of pain and distress on anyone, including animals - in that case you'd need to be warned, though I'd still prefer it if you DID go.
      I too was surprised at my own reaction even though I did have an inkling at a number of 'cruel' scenes, but I had no idea that they would be so pervasive, and if there is any sense of 'redemption' at the conclusion of this film it's very muted and one-sided.

      I'm finding that as I grow to what may be termed an 'advanced' age, I've become considerably more sensitive towards the suffering of other beings. It was always so but it's now become so much harder to bear - such as I can't watch the news now without having the remote in my hand to switch over from having to watch sufferings in Syria, for example. This has only happened in the last few years.

      It may well win 'Best Picture' Oscar. If it does it will only confirm that I've grown apart from the generally accepted view of what is now considered to be a 'good' film.

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  8. Hey Ray, I have read other reviews which are near enough the same as yours. I wont be seeing it as I think it will upset me. I am going to see Red Sparrow I hope it is good

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    1. Good to have you back again, Sol. Just like old times!

      It seems that more and more films these days need a thick skin in order to 'enjoy' them - as well as being able to shrug them off afterwards and just to forget them, something I find increasingly hard to achieve. I couldn't recommend this one to any particularly sensitive souls such as the likes of us.

      I've seen no reviews at all about 'Red Sparrow' which hasn't arrived here yet. I'll most likely be seeing it, if not for the story (which doesn't look too promising) more for its distinguished cast, and that ought to be enough to keep the blues at bay.

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  9. What a shame you didn't like it, I loved it. The heroes of that time period are villains, the enemies become heroes, when assets are treated as just assets, without compassion and race is treated as something worse. The nasty was necessary because that's how things were.

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    1. It really was a shame that my reaction was so unfavourable, Dave, when I'd been fully expecting to have liked it, and most especially considering the star presence of Miss Hawkins, but that's how it goes. Normally I'd wait to watch it again on TV but in this case I'm not keen to do so despite knowing that I can simply switch it off at any time. However, as there have been so many who've been on its side maybe I ought to do just that, giving it another chance.

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  10. Indeed everyone lauds this movie here.

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    1. I can only surmise that I've grown more sensitive, Dr Spo - due perhaps to my getting thin-skinned (or is that tautology?) If it's so then I don't regret the way I feel.

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  11. Ray,
    Pat liked this movie which was a surprise to him. He did say it could have done without the sex scenes. I haven't seen the film yet but I will. I like all the actors and the theme. Another good review!
    Ron

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    1. As far as I'm concerned, Ron, this film illustrates the growing disconnect between me and films that are considered as 'good', and it's exactly this which makes me want to stop reviewing films in general, though I'd still be going to see films that I personally think I'll like rather than placing great store by other people's opinions. Day after tomorrow at the Oscars will show whether Pat's liking for it has been vindicated, which I what I think will happen. If it does scoop up awards I can't change my negative opinion of it however much I wish could.

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    2. Ray,
      I haven't seen this movie but I will.
      Ron

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    3. Let me know what you think. Being one of the few who didn't like it (solely because of the discomfort it caused me) it's awfully lonely out here!

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