The Shape of Water @ The Ross

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The Asset (Doug Jones)

Guillermo del Toro’s newest cinematic endeavor, The Shape of Water, entices audiences to suspend its disbelief and nestle into his fairytale love story between … well, a beauty and a beast. Film goers will recognize other references to films such as Splash, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, E.T., and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I’d even go so far as to include Cinderella and The Elephant Man in the line-up of film references. In The Shape of Water, del Toro delves into the ‘what if’ of romance as he carefully dramatizes the fervent attraction of a lowly Cinderella-esque character to an amphibian creature called The Asset, played by Doug Jones. The Asset has been captured from the amazon in South America to be examined for its ability to endure extreme situations.

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Elisa (Sally Hawkins) on her way to work

Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a mute who lives alone above a movie theater and who is employed as a janitor at an underground science hub in Baltimore, Maryland. The time is 1962. Zelda, played by Octavia Spencer, is Elisa’s friend and confidante. Giles, played by Richard Jennings, is an unemployed gay advertising artist who also lives alone in the same apartment building as Elisa. He introduces us to our heroine as the princess without a voice. It is to Giles that Elisa reveals in sign language the reasons for her attraction to The Asset.

Elisa and Zelda labor in the isolated underground lab facility in chilly and bitter conditions. The scientists and lab technicians in their white coats shore up the echo as they walk the halls to their appointments. There is no joy in this environment; only a clipboard of statistics, computers spewing data, and, even more terrifying, creature hatred and abuse inhabit this world.

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Elisa and her friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer)

The United States is in a race against the Russians to develop its space program. The creature, or The Asset, is the key to the space program’s advancement.

Yet in Elisa’s world, love intervenes. Not only romantic love but love for your friends and associates who believe in those time honored civil rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Shape of Water plays through February 8 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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