The Shape of Water certainly made a splash on Oscars night. Director Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fairytale about a mute janitor’s relationship with a mysterious sea creature scored four wins, including the coveted Best Picture award, out of the 13 categories it was nominated in during the March 4th ceremony. We’re guessing the buzz surrounding the movie will inspire plenty of people who didn’t get a chance to watch ahead of the show to hit the theater or stream it at home and see what all the fishy fuss is about—and trust us, they’ll be glad they did.
But for those of us who *have* already seen the Academy’s new fave flick, one writer’s theory about Elisa and her aquatic bae could totally re-shape the Shape we thought we knew. (P.S. Spoilers coming.)
At the heart of del Toro’s story is Elisa, the cleaning woman played by Sally Hawkins, who we learn can’t speak because of an injury she suffered as a baby in which her neck was slashed and her vocal chords were presumably damaged. We never learn the full deets on Elisa’s backstory but know she was found orphaned as a baby, by a river, with the aforementioned slashed neck. Fast forward to the end of the movie and Elisa’s magical fish boyfriend turns her slash scars into gills so the couple can swim happily ever after underwater. Only, according to Forbes contributor Paul Tassi, it’s possible that those scars were gills all along. Yep, Tassi thinks Elisa is a fish, too. Or at least she used to be.
The clues, Tassi points out, are spread throughout the movie. There’s Elisa’s murky past and its ties to the river. There’s her gill-like scars. There’s her, um, intimate relationship with water, even before the fish man swept her off her fabulous retro-shoed feet (her morning pleasure fest in the bathtub ring a bell?). She can’t speak with humans using a human voice. She doesn’t have any trouble hanging out in a flooding bathroom. And then there’s the fact that the creature’s supernatural abilities seem to all be restorative: He regrows Giles’ hair. He repairs Elisa’s wounds. So, perhaps the scars-to-gills trick is actually him returning Elisa’s body to the way it had once been.
It’s possible this theory isn’t a theory at all, but a plot point del Toro has referenced in public previously. In an interview with Deadline, the director explained that he had written the movie with actors, including Hawkins, in mind. When he approached Hawkins about the role, he found out she’d already been working on her own story about a woman who didn’t know she was a mermaid. “I asked her if I could use this idea that she had scars on her neck that turned out to be gills,” de Toro said at the time. If the scars turned out to be gills, wouldn’t that mean they were gills all along? And if Hawkins story was about a woman who didn’t know she was a mermaid, would that suggest the same?
Whether you were getting an amphibian vibe from Elisa throughout the movie or this theory is hitting you like a wave of water spilling out of a locked bathroom of fish love, it’s definitely an interesting story layer to consider.