The Shape Of Water (2017) Ending: Elisa’s Scars Theory

This post includes an explanation about the ending of The Shape Of Water and a discussion about Elisa’s scars. Beware of spoilers.

the shape of water by guillermo del toro

To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for The Shape Of Water. The leading lady falls in love with a fish-man? I’m sorry, but that really caught me off-guard. But that’s a good thing, right? We want films to surprise us and take us somewhere else. That’s exactly what The Shape Of Water did for me. I was able to “escape” to a different universe for 2 hours. All thanks to Guillermo del Toro who directed this unconventional but beautiful love story.

The Shape Of Water: What Is It About?

As I see it, The Shape Of Water is a film about love and acceptance. The leading lady falls in love with a fish-man. Actually, they call him “amphibian man”. However, I think fish-man sounds catchier… so let’s keep it like that.

The protagonist and the hero of the story is Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and she’s mute. Her love interest is a fish-man (Doug Jones) who doesn’t speak a word in English. Well, I guess that sort of makes them perfect for each other. As the story unravels, they eventually find a way to communicate — Elisa teaches the fish-man sign language. After a few encounters, they develop a strong and an unlikeable bond.

Then you have Giles (Richard Jenkins), a closeted gay man who confides his deepest secrets to Elisa — his only friend in the world. It’s understandable why these two would hang with each other. Just think about it… On one hand, she’s mute but he can understand her. On the other hand, he’s gay and Elisa can’t “spill” his secrets. Well, I guess that makes her the best confidant in the world. Therefore, I can totally see why this friendship works.

By the way, let’s not forget about Zelda (Octavia Spencer). She’s a black woman in the 60s but that doesn’t matter to Elisa. Together, they make each others days more enjoyable at the dreadful research facility. To be honest, Zelda is the friend that we all wish we had, a true “ride and die”.

The Flaws Of This Perfectly Imperfect Film

I really loved the film but I didn’t find it perfect. The way how Elisa falls in love with Fish-Man is very unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a fantasy film. However, how she reacts to meeting Fish-man is very unlikely. As a human, if you see a scary creature standing in front of you, would you be able keep your cool? I think not. It’s in our nature, to fear what we do not know. Therefore, for Elisa to ignore primal instinct and go for it… it’s just not believable. In addition, let’s talk about the sensual encounters with fish-man. It was too much. No, this not me being prude. But I really think, it would’ve been more believable if the two kept a solid friendship. However, everything would change if Elisa was a sea creature as well… Think about that.

The Sweet Points Of The Shape Of Water

As I said before, the film is not perfect. However, the visuals and music are. They really get the film to another level.

Great Music

The music really sets the mood. I found myself smiling during the entire film. It really transports you to a different era. It’s so good, that it wouldn’t be weird to play it almost everyday. Yeah, it’s that addictive.

Great Visuals

Guess how much it cost to make The Shape Of Water? Less than 20 million dollars. Now, that’s impressive. Guess how much this film has made so far? More than 100 million dollars. That only proves that you don’t always need big money to make great films.

Overall, The Shape Of Water is a cinematic experience like no other. It’s unique in its own right. It might even reach cult status within a couple of years. In addition, Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer are indeed precious. Well, they both received Oscar nods for their wonderful work in this film. What about Guillermo del Toro? Of all the nominated directors, I think he’s the one that brought something new to the table. Therefore, I think he deserves to win.

The Ending Of The Shape Of Water

Okay, let me refresh your memory about what happened in the end: both Elisa and the fish-man get shot by Strickland. However, fish-man gets up and slices Strickland’s throat with his “bare” hand! Needless to say, Strickland is now out the picture, but Elisa is still unconscious. Fish-man says goodbye to Giles and decides to take Elisa with him. Under the water, he transforms her neck scars into gills. Elisa wakes ups and as viewers we just assume that they stay together. The end.

Elisa’s Scars: Was She A Mermaid?

When I first watched it, I always assumed that Elisa was human because she looked like a human. However, there are some other theories about Elisa’s true nature. For instance, some viewers believe that Elisa was a sea creature herself and that her neck scars were actually gills. If we believe in this theory, then fish-man didn’t give her gills, he activated them.

Let’s entertain that thought for a moment. That would explain her attraction to fish-man, wouldn’t it? If Elisa was a mermaid or some other sea creature, then it makes total sense that she would empathize with fish-man, because she’s from the sea herself. There are a couple of moments in the film that support this theory. For instance, how was Elisa found? By the river, abandoned and with wounds on her neck. If this theory proves to be true, then Elisa is not mute because someone damaged her vocal cords, she can’t talk because she’s out of her element: water.

Then, there’s another theory: she’s dead and the ending scene is just Giles trying to give them a happy ending. Well, this one is really morbid. Personally, I’m more inclined to believe that she was indeed a mermaid. Hey, it’s a fantasy film, everything is possible. Now, what do you think?