THE SHAPE OF WATER
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film opens as we go through a home that appears to be underwater. We hear the voice of a man named Giles (Richard Jenkins) mention the story of a princess, the one she loved, and the monster that threatened to tear them apart.
Baltimore, 1960's - Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman who lives alone but frequently spends time with Giles, her neighbor. She works at the Occam Aerospace Research Center as a janitor with her friend Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer). During their shift, a vessel is brought into the facility containing a valuable asset. Elisa goes near the vessel, and something bumps against it from inside.
Giles takes Elisa to his favorite pie shop where he frequently gets key lime pie. Elisa doesn't like it, but Giles enjoys the pie, as well as the conversations he has with the shop's "Pie Guy" (Morgan Kelly), whom Giles has a crush on. We also see Giles working as an ad designer for a company that advertises jello, and they want him to make a poster for the product.
At work, Elisa and Zelda are cleaning a bathroom when their superior, Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) comes in and splashes some water after washing his hands before he uses the urinal. A while later, the ladies hear a scream coming from one room, and Strickland emerges with two fingers missing from his left hand. Elisa and Zelda must clean the blood in the room where they are keeping the new "asset". Elisa splashes a bucket of water on the floor, and Strickland's fingers come out from under a shelf. Elisa packs them in a bag to send to the hospital with him.
Elisa discovers that the Asset (Doug Jones) is a fish-like humanoid creature. She becomes fascinated by it and starts sneaking into the enclosure to spend time with it. Elisa feeds it hard-boiled eggs, teaches it sign language, and plays music records to listen to. She hides when she hears someone enter. It's Strickland, coming to torture the Asset by zapping it with a cattle prod, merely to taunt it out of spite for his fingers.
A new doctor at the facility, Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), is actually a Soviet spy named Dimitri. He meets with his bosses, who take him to a restaurant to discuss the Asset. Hoffstetler tells the men that he believes the creature can communicate and is intelligent. The bosses give Hoffstetler a poison to kill the creature to prevent the Americans from advancing their scientific research and developments. Meanwhile, Strickland's own boss, General Hoyt (Nick Searcy) wants to harvest the Asset's body for space travel technology.
Elisa becomes fearful for the Asset's safety and lets Giles know that she wants to help it. Giles doesn't think it's a good idea since it's a creature/experiment, but Elisa sees no difference between the creature and herself, as they are both individuals that are unlike regular people, and she is worried that if she does nothing, she may as well let it die.
Giles pays another visit to the pie shop. He starts a friendly conversation with Pie Guy until Giles reaches to touch his hand, and the man reacts poorly. It gets worse when an African-American couple enters and he tells them they can't sit at the counter. Giles is also told to leave.
Giles decides to help Elisa break the Asset out. Hoffstetler discovers Elisa's relationship with the Asset and decides to help her instead of killing it.
The three initiate their plan by turning cameras away from the enclosure. Elisa sneaks the Asset in a laundry hamper and wheels it away while Giles waiting by the loading dock. Zelda spots Elisa and realizes what she's doing, and she reluctantly goes along with the plan. Strickland becomes suspicious and goes after them, not knowing exactly who is taking the Asset. They get it inside the van, and Giles drives them all away, wrecking Strickland's new car in the process.
Elisa brings the Asset to her apartment and keeps it in her tub with chemicals that Hoffstetler gave her, plus some salt to keep it healthy. When she goes to work the following night, Strickland investigates her and Zelda but then drops it since he doesn't believe they have the clearance to gain access to the Asset. As she leaves, Elisa signs "fuck you" to Strickland, which Zelda translates as "thank you".
While Giles is tending to the Asset, he falls asleep. The Asset gets out of the tub and sees one of Giles's cats. The cat hisses at the Asset, and it growls back before it starts to eat the cat. Giles sees this and frightens the Asset. It runs out, scratching Giles's arm. When Elisa returns, Giles tells her what happened. She runs out to look for it, only to find it in the movie theater beneath the apartments. She brings it back upstairs and tends to it. The Asset touches Giles's head and arm, and it starts to glow a blue color.
In the morning, Giles discovers hair on his head where there previously was none. The cut on his arm is also completely healed.
Elisa and the Asset grow closer, and they make love in the bathroom. Elisa even floods the bathroom so that they can swim together, but it causes a leak into the theater, and Giles is forced by the theater owner to open the door and let the water out. She eventually plans to free the Asset into a canal with rainwater flooding it and with few witnesses around to spot the Asset. Elisa grows more attached to the Asset, even imagining a scenario where she is in an old-timey musical number singing about her love for him.
Hoyt visits the facility to chastise Strickland for losing the Asset and gives him 36 hours to find it.
Hoffstetler's own bosses realize he didn't kill the Asset, but they spare Hoffstetler for the time being, telling him he will be extracted in two days time.
On the day that Elisa plans to release the Asset, Zelda comes over and sees that its' scales are peeling off, and they are out of the chemicals from the facility. They proceed to take the Asset away on their own.
Strickland follows Hoffstetler to his rendezvous point where he always meets his bosses. They shoot Hoffstetler repeatedly, but before they can kill him, Strickland shows up and kills them first. He grabs Hoffstetler by the bullet hole in his cheek and tortures him to give up the Asset's location, thinking he is hiding it for other Soviet spies. With his dying breaths, Hoffstetler laughs at Strickland and says, "No names. No rankings. They just clean."
Strickland then goes to Zelda's home to interrogate her and her husband Brewster (Martin Roach). Growing more mad and delusional, he tears off the two fingers on his hand that hadn't healed after being reattached. Brewster gives up the location of where they are taking the Asset. After Strickland leaves, Zelda scolds Brewster and then calls Elisa to warn her. She and Giles take the Asset away before Strickland shows up. He breaks into Elisa's apartment and sees the note on her calendar that lets him know she's taking the Asset to the canal.
Elisa and Giles bring the Asset to the canal. They say their goodbyes to the creature, but it signs to Elisa "Me and you together forever." She sadly responds that he must go without her. Strickland then shows up and punches Giles in the face before shooting both the Asset and Elisa. Thinking he just won, Strickland turns to leave but gets whacked in the face by Giles. The Asset revives itself and removes its' bullet wounds. Strickland is impressed and calls the Asset a god before it slashes Strickland's throat with its claws. Just as the police arrive, the Asset takes Elisa into the water as Giles and Zelda (who just arrived) watch.
Underwater, the Asset kisses Elisa, using its healing powers to revive her and give her gills where there were once scars on her neck. The two hold each other as Giles's voice closes the film saying that the two of them could now be together.