Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Written by: Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones
UK Release Date: 14th February 2018
From the glasses of water in all the characters’ hands to the blue-green (or perhaps teal? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge) hue that is washed over every shot, everything about The Shape Of Water feels absolutely soaking wet. But visionary director Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece is certainly no drip of a romantic fantasy drama.
Sally Hawkins gives a breathtakingly powerful performance as Eliza Esposito, a mute cleaner who lives with her old, gay artist best friend Giles (Richard Jenkins) and works with her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) at a classified science lab in the height of the tensions surrounding the Space Race between America and Russia in the 1960’s. Her life is changed forever when the sinister Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) takes over the facility with their most classified research project yet: a humanoid amphibian creature found in South America. What transpires is a beautiful connection between two initially completely different species that learn they are far more than kindred spirits.
Gorgeous, captivating and brutal – The Shape Of Water is Del Toro at the pinnacle of his creative genius. 1960’s Baltimore is thriving, full of minute details and gorgeous textures and inhabited by vibrant characters filled with compassion and hate. Del Toro is no stranger to lush worlds with the magical fantasy worlds of Pan’s Labyrinth and the gothic horror glamour of Crimson Peak under his belt, but The Shape Of Water is a director really elevating his craft to the next level. Almost every shot looks like a painting. The film storms from being hopelessly romantic to edge of your seat thrilling, with its nail bitingly tense breakout-Slash-escape sequences rivalling even the best in the thriller genre. Whether it’s being tender or cruel, you’ll be hanging on to every word (even when the characters are communicating via sign language).
The Shape Of Water succeeds in every way as a piece of cinema because of how much it embraces the craft of film. From its intro monologue to its poetic outro conclusion, the film is structured so neatly as an old fashioned tale that it feels like a ready made classic recovered from the Golden Age of Cinema, and if it weren’t for the high definition visuals and impressive special fx work on the creature itself you’d think it would be. There’s a jaw droppingly fantastical sequence towards the end of the film that is an almost La La Land level send up of old Hollywood cinema that would have been ridiculous had the film not shown the medium of film such love and adoration across its two hour run time.
The picture is nominated for 13 Oscars at the 90th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor nods for Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins. It’s the most nominated film of the entire ceremony. Go to the cinema and see for yourself why it’s so highly acclaimed, and rediscover how powerful great film can be.