How much of the Shape of Water can I predict from just the trailer?

I could give a full movie review, but I can’t

Given that my blog is intended to cover ‘anything about water’, I realize how strange it would be to never talk about pop culture pieces that talk about water. This includes movies; namely, “Shape of Water”, which won a few Academy awards a couple years back.

However, there is one issue that prevents me from writing about Shape of Water on my blog: I’ve never watched it.

The natural response to this should be that I should watch the movie, so that I can write about it. However, as someone who is not much of a film critic – I feel like a review from myself would not bring anything new to the table. If people are seeking movie reviews, why not go to a more film-focused blog, or even just Rotten Tomatoes?

Then why even write about the Shape of Water?

What I find people do not share much of, however, is what they think the movie is going to be about, before they even watch. I think discussing expectations is in the merit of people who have not yet watched the film, as they would not have to anticipate spoilers, and people who have watched the film, as they may use it as a springboard to reminiscence what their expectations were before watching Shape of Water. Thus, I think it is in better merit to discuss what kinds of expectations for the film are set up for me through the trailer, and this is what I hope to accomplish through this post.

Film prediction: Overview

As much as I want to assume that this film encompasses a fairytale-like romance between the Fish and Eliza, I think a story as simple as that could not have achieved an Academy award for best picture. After observing the trailer, my guess is that this film is perhaps more of a psychological thriller about para-social relationships, showing us that the marginalized are especially vulnerable to these situations.

For reference, here is the trailer I watched, accompanied below with my observations:



The main character of this film is a woman who is mute – who is referred to as Eliza by a coworker – who lives as a janitor, working in a lab that is situated in the deep undergrounds of somewhere in the United States. Not only does she find her life mundane, but she does not quite excel at her job, as she is slow-moving and tends to lose her focus to the mysterious pieces of equipment around the lab.

The other key character we are introduced to is a humanoid fish that, we are told, is worshipped as a god in the Amazons. Aside from him, we are also shown several researchers, who appear to be crucial to the plot, but they do not have much notable features besides the fact that they are of Caucasian descent and wear suits.


There are several shots in the trailer, combined with slow, romantic music, that allude to the Shape of Water being a love story between the Fish and Eliza. The quote that Eliza signs at the 1:22 mark is particularly powerful evidence for this – “When he looks at me, he does not know how I am incomplete. He sees me as I am”.

Yet, what piques my curiosity is that there is no evidence of the Fish reciprocating these feelings. While we do get a couple shots of the Fish and Eliza clearly interacting (1:38 – the Fish and Eliza share an egg), these shots fail to demonstrate the emotional responses the Fish is having to Eliza’s advances. His absence in the trailer is most notable at 2:11, when Eliza is signing to someone (likely the Fish, as the only other distinctly established character in the trailer?) that “If we do nothing, neither are we”. I assume that she is desperately signing to the Fish, wanting to do something so that they can be something – but if that’s the case, why don’t we get to see the Fish?

The overall eerie-ness of the Fish does not stop here. In the second half of the trailer, Eliza is moving with so much confidence, a complete change from who she was in the first minute of the trailer. The Fish is still absent, yet, it seems like researchers are either dying or being thrown into dangerous situations. As we’ve only really had the Fish and Eliza established as the main characters, we can only assume that either one of those two, or both of them, are behind this tonal shift in the trailer.

Final interpretation

Even after the trailer, the biggest aspect I am still focused on is that we did not hear a single word from the Fish. Perhaps, he is mute as well, but even so, we got evidence that Eliza is still capable of sign language communication, while we still do not know if the Fish even understands human language. This is what makes me wonder – was communication between Eliza and the Fish always one-sided, as in, was the direction of communication always Eliza -> Fish, and never Eliza <-> Fish?

If so, that leads me to think about para-social relationships. Given the year the film came out, it was already an issue back then. People were getting attached to entities that they can only see behind a screen, especially if they shared something in common with them – allowing people to see themselves in celebrities they had never spoken to before. The connection could feel like, Fan -> Justin Bieber, but hardly ever Fan <-> Justin Bieber, just like Eliza and the Fish.

The prediction that this film is a psychological thriller comes from my assumption that this film is taking the concept of para-social relationships to the extreme by putting the characters’ lives at stake. As a result of Eliza completely divulging into this emotional connection she’s made to the Fish (that the Fish might not even reciprocate), lives are being ruined, if not ended.

Next steps

Perhaps I will follow up with a new blog post if I do end up watching the whole movie. But overall, just based on the trailer, the film does look like an engaging watch and worthy of an Academy award. It is reminiscent of trailers that manage to hide what the movie is really about, in order to hit their audiences with shock, so I am excited to eventually determine if I was accurate or not in my predictions.