“The Shape of Water” screened 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., concluding the Richard Jenkins Film Series with DeKalb native Richard Jenkins in attendance. With a compelling lead and a beautiful atmosphere, “The Shape of Water” was the best film of the series.
The film follows Irene, played by Sally Hawkins, who’s janitor at a secret laboratory who falls in love with a gill man, played by Doug Jones. When she discovers how inhumanly the creature’s been treated, such as being beaten until unconscious, she calls upon her neighbor Giles and her co-worker Zelda, played by Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, to help her free the creature.
Sally Hawkins shines as Irene because she delivers so much emotion while saying very little throughout the film because she can’t speak. She mainly communicates through sign and lets her facial expressions do the work. A fantastic example is when she signs an obscenity to the head of the laboratory, played by Michael Shannon, and she just smiles because he can’t understand her. Through her performance, the audience experiences her joys and her sorrows.
The romance between her and the creature is very well done and, more importantly, believable. This is a story that could not have worked 99 times out of one hundred, but Guillermo del Toro put his heart into the film and created a touching tale. Irene and the creature each benefit the other; Irene teaches the creature how to communicate and the creature absolves Irene of her loneliness. At one point, Irene fantasizes about the creature and the two dance. Only in this film could imagery like that work because of how flushed out and likeable the characters are.
Richard Jenkins nails it as Giles because of the friendship he shares with Irene. From the moment he’s introduced, the audience gets the sense the pair have been friends for a long time because of the way they interact. Easily the best moment between the two is when they tap dance while sitting on the couch, and their moves are perfect, indicating they have been practicing over a period of time.
The most brilliant aspect of the film is the atmosphere. Even though the film was released in 2017, it feels like a film made in 1955. At the Q and A session after the film, Richard Jenkins said the film “was shot like a black and white movie.” The film’s production design is also very impressive.Jenkins said his character’s home is “a work of art.” The film looks like a moving version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night by utilizing relaxing colors like blue and green to create a state of relaxed attention from the viewer.
With fantastic characters and an ambience unlike any film previously released, “The Shape of Water” is the best entry in the series and served as a brilliant conclusion to a remarkable two months.