Movie Review: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo Del Toro starring Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Visually stunning and beautifully acted, writer-director Guillermo Del Toro’s fairytale love story shows that one can find happiness in anyone — or anything — and does so masterfully.
Set against a 1960’s US-Soviet cold-war backdrop, mute cleaning lady Eliza Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins) falls in love with a human-like aquatic creature (Doug Jones) trapped as a test subject in a secret US scientific facility headed by compellingly malevolent government official Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).
Hawkins’ performance as Eliza ironically speaks volumes. Without needing to utter a word, her ‘loud’ sign language, facial expressions, telling gazes and perfect timing put the viewer right inside her head. Shannon is equally riveting as Strickland, bringing a sense of dominance to a villain whose no-nonsense mantra has everyone quaking in their seats.
The real treasures, however, are among the supporting line-up. Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg are fantastic as Eliza’s colleague and friend, her neighbor, and a US-Soviet scientist/spy respectively, as they balance their own unique and interesting sub-plots with their role as comic relief.
For a movie that runs to 123 minutes, the plot felt weirdly rushed in places, while in others the story drags, and one can’t help feeling like there were a few scenes that ended up on the cutting-room floor when they might have served the movie well, or that things could have played out differently and in a more elegant manner. The first two acts of the film are captivating and make the audience ask the right questions, but toward the movie’s climax, everything plays out a little too predictably.
“The Shape of Water” won 2018’s Academy Award for Best Movie. Did it deserve it? When you look at the lineup it was up against, the answer would have to be “Not really.” But the magical world Del Toro has created is definitely worth diving into.


West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

Updated 20 June 2018
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West End theater turns migrant camp to get London audience talking

  • The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle.”
  • The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.

LONDON: London theatergoers used to spectating in comfort are in for a rude awakening after the authors of a play swapped the traditional plush velvet seating for wooden benches and covered the floor with soil to simulate the feel of a migrant camp.
The Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End aims to immerse the audience in the squalid camp in the northern French port city of Calais that inspired “The Jungle,” whose authors hope their play will stoke debate about migration.
“People often hold strong opinions about this subject because it doesn’t seem to have any immediate answer,” said Joe Murphy, 27, who co-wrote the play.
“Discussion is the only think that is going to get us forward ... and hopefully this play can provide some of that space for debate,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Co-author Joe Robertson said the pair had “tried to depict both the terrible conditions that existed in the Jungle camp, but also the hope that existed in that place.”
Up to 10,000 people seeking ways to reach Britain used to live in the giant slum before it was cleared by authorities in late 2016.
Immigration remains a major political issue across Europe, as well as in the United States, where the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the Mexican border has caused an international outcry.
Several European leaders including those of France, Germany, Italy and Austria are to hold talks on Sunday to explore how to stop people from moving around the European Union after claiming asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.
Murphy and Robertson, 28, based the script on their experience as volunteers in Calais, where they ran a temporary theater within the camp.
The immersive play offers a glimpse into life in the camp, telling the story of asylum-seekers, people smugglers and charity workers who used to populate it.
“There were 25 different nationalities of people all forced to live side by side often on top of each other and the phenomenal story about that place was people did make an effort to come together,” said Robertson.
Theatre-goers are invited to seat at the tables of the camp’s makeshift Afghan café, where the action unfolds.
“The closer you are to the audience the better the message is delivered,” said actor Ammar Hajj Ahmad, who plays one of the leading characters.
Ahmad, from Syria, is one of many actors from a refugee background featured in the play. Several asylum-seekers the authors met in Calais are also part of the cast.
“I am proud of this, I love telling stories ... about the many people who lived in Calais,” said cast-member Mohamed Sarrar, a musician from Sudan who arrived in Britain two years ago.
The play, which premiered at another London theater The Young Vic, last year, runs from July 5 to November.