MOVIE REVIEW: The Shape of Water (2017)

An allegorical tale of the co-existence between human and monster, The Shape of Water confirms that director Guillermo Del Toro’s hands on magic realism is masterful, and his breakthrough with 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth was not a fluke.

Set in the outbreak of the Cold War, The Shape of Water follows the life of Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a rendered mute, who works as a janitor for a classified, underground government laboratory. She soon caught herself in the middle of unraveling the secrecy of her workplace: the imprisonment of a sea monster with omniscient abilities. Government officials use it to conduct tests and experiments in preparation to beat the Soviet Union in the Space Race.

As a mute, Elisa’s livelihood is limited to blue collar jobs, yet she treats it with such dedication and finesse, as if she works as a corporate professional. This suggests that, despite being categorized in a lower social status, she is never sub par in her own terms as that has always been her reality. Her condition is never reliant to the definition of others. The first few scenes show how she revolves in her own world — the way she delicately presses her clothes, prepares her bath and brushes her shoes before going to work, taking so much pride in what she does — she never sees herself as someone any lesser.

Despite being, a love story between a woman and a monster, Del Toro’s approach to the film is never about bestiality. He used the concept of the monster’s existence as if they are the patron saints of imperfection. This is parallel towards the imperfect life of Elisa, mirroring to that of the sea creature — both are living beings suffering the alienation because of their differences and abnormalities. Del Toro’s direction never leans towards the path of eerie and horror — it was simply a story between two broken souls who possess compassion, sympathy, and the ability to look beyond the each others’ disabilities.

The production design played a vital role in expressing the undertones of the characters’ emotions. During the scenes where Elisa is at home, the film felt claustrophobic — suggesting the character’s imprisonment in the tight spaces of her home because of her condition. The lighting is dark, yet it exposed little yellow lights here and there, almost sepia — suggesting that she never sees hopelessness in her world. As she goes to work, the cinematography changes from tight closeups to wide, panorami shots — this shows how big the world around her is, and she didn’t seem to be bothered by it. This serves as a contrast between her reality and the world; it suggests how little she is for anyone to even bother notice her.

The screenplay used Chekhov’s Gun technique in the film, particularly on how Elisa shows her care and affection to others. The hard-boiled egg was utilized thoroughly to express this intent. The first scene shows how much she takes time and effort to cook these eggs, basically almost every morning; she then gives them to Giles (Richard Jenkins), her long-time friend. He rejects it; stating that she “need not to bother”. The sea monster is the only one who accepts it; ultimately, “egg” becomes the first English word it learns. The egg symbolizes a woman’s capacity to nourish, and perhaps this is something that Elisa has been long waiting to offer to someone who will accept what she can give. She found this in the monster. Keep in mind that her capabilities to give are limited, thus every little thing meant a whole lot to her.

Sally Hawkins’ performance is the heart of the film. Given that her character didn’t have any speaking lines, a lot had to be said with every muscle in her face. Every stare, her eyes pierce with a hundred layers of emotions. Her mouth moves as if she is dying to speak her entire life. Her body language vibrates what she feels inside; every tick of a finger and every stomp of her foot made me feel something from her. She didn’t need a word to convey these emotions. I felt her contentment; I felt her simple joys, I felt her sexual frustrations; I felt her anguish; I felt her love for the monster. Hawkins’ gave the best female performance of the year.

The film used music and dance in fantasy sequences to display the subconscious of Elisa. In scenes where her emotions are too overwhelming not even sign language can express it, Del Toro shifts to a monochromatic musical number where she dances and sings as if she were in a musical. The film used the dream-like landscapes and elements of fantasy as a remedy for an inconvenient reality. This supports Elisa’s love for tap-dancing, and watching TV shows where flapper girls are dancing in jitterbug shows; her love for music and dance is an escapade from her own mundane life.

Overall, The Shape of Water embodies exactly what its title suggests — it’ll fill ever corner of your being, and how indefinite its form is gives you a thousand possibilities of what to feel while watching the movie. A monumental achievement for Guillermo Del Toro for, one again, giving a whiplash of his magic realist genius. Clearly, one of the best films of 2017.

5 out of 5 stars

WATCH: Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ trailer brings on the action

Real heroes. Not actual size. Marvel Studios has just revealed the brand-new trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp.

Check out the trailer below and watch Ant-Man and the Wasp in Philippine cinemas July 4.

From the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes Ant-Man and the Wasp, a new chapter featuring heroes with the astonishing ability to shrink. In the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang grapples with the consequences of his choice as both a Super Hero and a father. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym with an urgent new mission. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside the Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from the past.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John Kamen, Abby Ryder-Forston, Randall Park, with Michelle Pfeiffer, with Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Douglas.

Kevin Feige is producing with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Charles Newirth, and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Chris McKenna & Eric Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari wrote the screenplay.

Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp will be distributed in the Philippines by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

‘Ocean’s’ trilogy director Steven Soderbergh shot new film ‘Unsane’ using iPhone

From Steven Soderbergh, director of highly-successful heist trilogy “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Ocean’s Twelve” and “Ocean’s 13” comes his latest horror thriller “Unsane” starring Claire Foy (Netflix’s The Crown) about a woman who was involuntarily confined to a mental institution after failing to prove to the authorities that she is being followed by a digital stalker. Within the asylum, she gets to confront her greatest fear – is it real or is it a delusion?

Director Soderbergh shot “Unsane” entirely using an iPhone. It was reported that Soderbergh was greatly impressed with the quality of iPhone, “I think this is the future,” he said in recent interviews. “Anybody going to see this movie who has no idea of the backstory to the production will have no idea this was shot on the phone. That’s not part of the conceit.”

“Unsane” will open in Philippine cinemas on March 21, 2018 from 20th Century Fox.

Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Best Picture nominee ‘The Post’ to hit Philippine cinemas

Fresh from receiving a Best Picture nomination in the 90th Academy Awards, Univeral Pictures’ timely thriller The Post is headed to Philippine cinemas on February 24, a week before the actual Oscars.

Marking their historic, first-ever on-screen collaboration, Steven Spielberg directs Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post, a thrilling drama about the unlikely partnership between The Washington Post’s Katharine Graham (Streep), the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), as they race to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. Presidents.

The two must overcome their differences as they risk their careers – and their very freedom – to help bring long-buried truths to light.

Throughout American history, there have been catalytic moments in which ordinary citizens must decide whether to put everything on the line–livelihoods, reputations, status, even freedom—to do what they believe to be right and necessary to protect the Constitution and defend American freedom.

With The Post, multiple-Academy-Award®-winning director Steven Spielberg excavates one such moment. The result is a high-wire drama based on the true events that unfolded when The Washington Post and The New York Times formed a pragmatic alliance in the wake of The Times’ incendiary exposure of the Top Secret study that would become known to the world as the Pentagon Papers.

Though scooped by The New York Times, The Washington Post takes up the story that has brought legal threats and the power of the White House down on The Times—as huge personal stakes collide with the needs of a shocked nation to know what its government is hiding.

In the balance might hang the fate of millions, including thousands of U.S. soldiers fighting a war their government does not believe can be won. In just a few days of crisis, pioneering but inexperienced Post publisher Katharine Graham will weigh her legacy against her conscience as she gains the confidence to lead; and editor Ben Bradlee must press his team to go beyond the ordinary, knowing they could be charged with treason for carrying out their jobs.

But as they do, the underdogs at The Post become unified in a battle far larger than themselves—a battle for their colleagues and the Constitution—one that underscores the necessity of a free press to hold a democracy’s leaders accountable, even as it challenges Graham and Bradlee to their most private inner cores.

Throughout his career, Spielberg has been drawn to visiting moments on which historical transformations turn in films ranging from Empire of the Sun and Schindler’s List to Munich, Lincoln and Bridge of Spies.

The Post turns Spielberg’s lens for the very first time on 1970s America, the same era in which he first became one of America’s eminent filmmaking voices. Its relentlessly brisk narrative is a story of personal connections and courage, but it also brings Spielberg into the world of newspaper reporting at a critical moment for the nation and the world, a realm on the cusp of change with the rising power of women and the coming of corporatization.

Most of all, the story provides a riveting context for a timeless dilemma: when must one speak out to expose a grave national danger even knowing the stakes are unfathomably high?

The Post is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.