The film relies on other elements to show their connection
By Veronnica MacKillop, Columnist
Winning two Golden Globes and scoring 93 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s clear that The Shape of Water is one of the standout movies of the year, even though neither of the main characters speak throughout the entire film.
Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is mute. She is able to hear people, and she communicates using sign language. The movie focuses on her relationship with Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), who does not speak any human language, but makes noises that humans can’t understand.
So what is it that makes this movie connect so strongly with audiences despite the lack of dialogue between the two featured performers? It’s not just because the side characters are so strong, or because it relies on explanations, it’s due to the connection that the two leads are able to convey without words. The roles played by Hawkins and Jones have such a strong presence that they don’t need dialogue to tell a story. The two use movement and emotion to present their characters, and the lack of words actually makes their on-screen chemistry even stronger because it doesn’t rely on speech. A line in the movie says that the amphibious creature is “capable of language, understanding emotions”—which perfectly sums up what the film does without dialogue. Both characters are capable of communicating with each other, despite not being able to speak.
Without actually having lines, the actors rely on so much more to convey emotion. The silence also helps to portray a sort of innocent quality to the love story that makes you root for the main characters even more. This is used in contrast to the antagonist of the movie, Richard Strickland, who is always seen yelling and getting upset that he can’t understand what Elisa is saying.
The silence between the two protagonists is beautiful, in a way. It compliments the ambience and sensibly matches the underwater setting. The film also uses music as a means of communication, as it is often how the two connect.
Director Guillermo del Toro does a brilliant job blending a variety of different genres to create this movie. It is a fairy tale romance, science fiction story, a classic Hollywood film, a heist movie, and a good old-fashioned monster movie. Many viewers and critics are comparing the film to Beauty and the Beast and Creature from the Black Lagoon. As the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Crimson Peak, and Mimic, del Toro is known for creating big, fantastical movies with a mix of both realistic and otherworldly elements.
The Shape of Water is a film that uses much more than words to communicate the relationship between its two main characters. Without speech, it allows the pair to communicate and express emotion using a variety of techniques from del Toro.