The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Kraus

‘Richard Strickland reads the brief from General Hoyt.’

In 1962, Elisa Esposito, a mute orphaned woman works as a cleaner on the graveyard shift at Baltimore’s Occam Aerospace Research Center. She is isolated, surviving in an indifferent and largely hostile world except for the support of her neighbour Giles and her co-worker, Zelda.

One night, by chance, Zelda and Elisa see the Center’s new, sensitive asset: an amphibious man captured from the Amazon.  The captive, chained in a tank, is part of an experiment. 

Richard Strickland, the soldier who located and retrieved the captive, is obsessed and evil. His focus becomes destroying the captive to ensure that he doesn’t fall into the hands of the Russians.

But Elisa has formed a friendship with the captive.  Using sign language, they can communicate.  And with the help of others, Elisa wants to free the captive before it is too late.

I watched the film and then a couple of days later read the book.  I did not realise at the time that the two were developed in parallel.  What can I say about the story?  The film is magnificent, and the book gave me an opportunity to slow the story down to my reading pace.  Elisa and the captive are both outcasts, are both misunderstood because of their differences.

There is both good and evil in this story. And the ending seems entirely appropriate.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith