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When darkness falls: a review of “The Shape of Water" (Guillermo del Toro)

The truth is: I didn’t know what to expect. Apart from lying down on a bean bag and having a snuggle under the stars, that is. I was as green as green can be, a first time Moonlight Cinema goer. The storyline of the movie we were going to see? No idea. The title then, maybe? Not a clue, my wife just picked a day based on the weather forecast given recent storms. Our date was all about the “experience”. And what experience it was! Walking through a grove of eucalyptus trees glowing in the beautiful evening light, with pillows and blankets under our arms? Check. Watching hordes of bats fluttering effortlessly above our heads, in the pastel skies? Check. Eating chocolate while lying down in Centennial Park? Check. And then there was that, of course... no, not the Corona I needed real bad after a tough day at work (but that I didn’t have because it is dry January)... I meant that snuggle under the stars. Check check check.

All about the experience, as I said. At least until twilight vanished and moonlight resurrected. Then it was all about her, Elisa, a mute woman who works as a janitor in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. The highlight of her life of isolation is when she masturbates in her bath, every morning. But things change when she discovers the lab’s classified secret: a mysterious creature captured from a river in South America, now kept in a water tank. They share boiled eggs, music, simple things. Soon they start to form a strong bond; they even start to use sign language to communicate, but it is their eyes who speak the most: they see each other for who they are. Without a sound, the two misfits fall in love.

But like it happens sometimes, darkness descends, terrible things happen. Elisa soon learns that the fate and very survival of the creature she loves lies in the hands of a hostile government agent. “The thing”, as he calls it, doesn’t look like him, doesn’t speak like him, isn’t like him. “It” is less than nothing, probably coming from a ‘shit hole' country as the other guy would say in 2018 Washington. So they don't get along very well...

With the creature on death row, we started to despair. But then the unexpected happened, a miracle: a shooting star passed by! The wounds that the creature touched healed, hair grew once again on bald heads.

And then? Well, I can’t tell you, sorry, I don’t want to spoil your experience. All I can say is that Elisa and I share something special, for like so many times in my childhood, it is a so-called monster that was going to save me from my nightmares.

Late at night, we left without a sound, hand in hand, heads full of shooting stars. Elisa was going to live with us a little longer.


This article was published by LE COURRIER AUSTRALIEN in February 2018:

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