The Shape of Water is brilliantly directed by Guillermo del Toro and set in the Cold War era of the 1960's. The U.S. Military has found a creature in the jungles of South America, an Amphibian Man (that looks a lot like the 1960's monster, The Creature From the Black Lagoon). They want to use it as a military weapon against the Russians. The Russians want it too. That's the big picture the film hangs its hat on.
The deeper story is about Elsa (Sally Hawkins) and how her lonely life changes when she comes into contact with the "secret experiment" that the government is keeping in a military facility. She and her co- worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are part of the cleaning crew and it doesn't take long for them to discover that there's something different going on at the military facility.
It seems odd, but the movie is also a love story. Elsa sees the cruelty that the government's project head treats the amphibian man with (the sadistic head of the project is played by Michael Shannon) and she sneaks into his holding area at the facility to show him kindness and to show the amphibian man he's not all alone.
The theme of loneliness runs deep throughout the movie. At home Elsa lives next door to an artist (Richard Jenkins) who is a gay man in the 1960's. They are each the other's only friend. The characters are all well developed and del Toro gives you a good insight into the lives they are all living.
Octavia Spencer is stellar in the movie. While Sally Hawkins' character Elsa, who was born not being able to talk, is the main character, it's Spencer's character, Zelda, who keeps the movie moving along.
It seems odd but the interaction between Elsa and the monster is beautiful. It's a fairy tale love story like in Beauty and the Beast. However, the movie seems to go off the rails for about thirty minutes with a fantasy scene about a musical (the monster actually dances) and a few other scenes that would be a spoiler for the film. But overall the movie has way more good stuff than bad.
The Shape of Water is rated R for nudity and graphic violence and has a run time of 2 hours and 3 minutes. On my "Hollywood Popcorn Scale" I rate this movie a LARGE.