Then there's Eliza (Hawkins), a caring mute woman who grew up in an orphanage. Neck scars prevent her from speaking... and they look a little like gills. She lives above an old art deco movie theater (Toronto's Elgin where, in a weird twist, I happened to see this movie at its Toronto International Film Festival debut.) Next door is Giles, a commercial artist blacklisted for being gay. It's the heat of the cold war and Eliza works alongside Zelda (Octavia Spencer) as a cleaning lady at some kind of secret government facility.
Before too long, Eliza befriends the creature, under lock and key in the facility. There's also a Soviet spy (Michael Stuhlbarg) with orders to destroy the man-fish-thing before the Americans can learn from it, but he's a scientist first. Eventually he, Zelda and Giles all help Eliza rescue the creature before he can be hurt.