Guillermo Del Toro is a master of the modern fairy tale. In The Shape of Water, he tells the story of a budding love between a mute woman named Elisa and a captive fish creature. Like the very best of Del Toro, the film blurs the line between reality and fantasy and succeeds as an allegorical tale about the transformative power of love. Set in the Cold War Era, most of the story takes place in a secret government facility replete with scientists, gung-ho military jerk-offs, and spies. This setting provides the canvass for Del Toro’s peculiar aesthetic, as well as the majority of the tension. The performances are outstanding, from the supporting characters to the leads to the man in the Fish Monster suit. Simply put, The Shape of Water is a gorgeous little tale and the reason why movies can be so magical.
There are specific and powerful images throughout Hidden Figures, but none exemplify the central theme of Theodore Melfi’s film more than two shots of a piece of chalk held by the main character. This pregnant extension of Katherine Goble’s (Taraji P. Henson) brilliant mind is both an invitation for her to prove herself as a black woman in a world of white men, but an implicit challenge by those same men that she could never be their equal. Though they are not connected dramatically, her struggles and successes are thematically connected with the successes of her peers, so that each separate woman’s respective strides become reverberations of the others, until the resulting din screams a single poignant truth: the quality and content of a person’s mind is not determined by race, gender, or anything else so superficial.