This film is an unusual and creative love story, of the “Beauty and the Beast” genre. The Writer/Director, Guillermo Del Toro, has a terrific visual imagination, and his attention to detail serves him well.
The film takes place in Baltimore in 1962 at the height of the Cold War period. Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman who works as a janitor at a corporation that does some government defense research. This corporation has captured an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), and the leader, Strickland (Michael Shannon), is “studying” it. Unfortunately, he is a sadist and is really just torturing the sea creature, doing things like shocking him over-and-over with a cattle prod.
Elisa’s best friend is her next-door neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). They are all alone except for each other.
One day, Elisa needs to do some clean up in the room that houses the Amphibian Man, and they make an emotional connection. Elisa then starts secretly going there each day to meet with him and a rather unusual relationship develops. The sea creature seems to understand her, have positive feelings for her, and sees her as complete rather than as a mute. She feels similarly enthralled.
Elisa learns that the Navy General in charge of the project wants to kill the Amphibian Man in order to study it further. The General hopes that the knowledge learned will give the U.S. an edge up on the Soviet Union. Elisa and a scientist working on the project, Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), don’t want this to happen. Elisa also enlists the help of Giles and her co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), in order to rescue the Amphibian Man.
The film is visually-compelling, has all kinds of symbolism (especially with color), and is, at times, magical and uplifting. If you have the chance, try to see it over the holidays. If you happen to see me at the theater, don’t forget to “wave.”