The Shape of Water – Movie Review – A mesmerisingly magical romantic tale.

The Shape of Water follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a lonely janitor at a top secret research facility in the 1960’s. When a mysterious amphibian creature is held in captivity at the facility, Elisa begins to form a unique relationship with the creature.

Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s script for this film is wonderful. It takes full advantage of it’s 60’s setting to craft a beautifully mesmerising tale of romance. Most of the characters are written with so much depth and detail, that I immediately became interested to learn more about them. I also want to highlight that creating a story about a woman falling in love with an amphibian creature is no easy task. Thankfully Guillermo and Vanessa effortlessly pull off this feat. The story had me invested on multiple levels, starting with the characters, then the growing romance as well the mystery and ambiguity behind the existence of this creature. There’s only one aspect of the story that was lacking and that was a sub plot, involving the Soviet’s pursuit and interest in obtaining the creature. This is the only part of the story that felt under developed, and whenever the film cut to specific scenes to move this sub plot forward, it always felt like an after thought.

Sally Hawkins is tremendous. Her character Elisa is a mute and I commend the fact that del Toro didn’t make this character choice for the sake of it. It has a purpose and not only does it help humanise her, but it also allows us to understand why her initial fascination with the creature develops into love. She views being unable to speak as an imperfection, which in her eyes makes herself and the creature very similar in different ways. Sally gives an emotionally resonant performance that is filled with nuance. She is very understated in this role and the performance grew on me very rapidly.

Doug Jones portrays the creature, credited as Amphibian Man. It’s a fantastic performance that I fear will be massively overlooked and under appreciated. I cared for The Amphibian Man, and as his bond with Elisa grew so did my investment in their relationship. The mannerisms which Doug uses to bring this creature to life made him a complete wonder to watch. Whenever he was on screen I was transfixed and captivated.

Michael Shannon portrays Colonel Richard Strickland, the man in charge of the research facility where the Amphibian Man is housed. It won’t be a surprise to hear me say he is superb, he always is but what he does with this role makes it one of his best performances to date. He’s very entertaining to watch because you get the impression that there is something deeply sinister about Col. Richard Strickland. Michael commands the screen whenever he appears and the gradual development of Strickland, as his motivations became more urgent made him such a thrilling character.

The rest of the supporting cast were equally great. Octavia Spencer plays Zelda, who is Elisa’s best friend and co worker. She offers a lot more than just comedic dialogue, she at times serves as the voice of reason to help Elisa make the correct decisions. Octavia and Sally have a believable chemistry that is so good, it makes them seem like close friends who have been working together for a very long time. Richard Jenkins also gives a terrific performance as Giles, Elisa’s next door neighbour. It’s made very clear through the writing and his performance that he is the closest individual to Elisa. He had some hilarious moments of humour, but struck a good balance between that and his more dramatic scenes.

When you watch a film created by Guillermo del Toro you know the production aspects of the film will be excellent and this film is no exception. The sets look like real locations, and each room feels like it’s filled with history and has existed prior to the scenes we spend in them. The costume design and make up work is fantastic. It all complements the 1960’s Cold War era setting perfectly. The incredible work by all these artists in the production departments, help aid the film in feeling like a classic from a much earlier time in cinema history. There’s a timeless quality to this story and to the film overall. I truly believe if you revisit this film in twenty years time it would retain the same impact and feel it has now. That is a very rare feat for any film to achieve.

Alexandre Desplat’s musical score is simply wonderful. He orchestrates his instruments in a very unique way to create harmonious themes, that accompany the film to a highly satisfying degree.

Guillermo del Toro’s direction is truly splendid. This film is a work of art and serves as a glowing example of what filmmaking is all about. He orchestrates some enthralling scenes of dialogue between his characters and successfully kept me invested throughout. After a few weeks of thinking, I’ve decided it’s his best film yet, and that’s really saying something when you look at the quality of his filmography.

The Shape of Water is an excellent film that is both mesmerising and magical. The performances are fantastic, the production design is phenomenal. This is Guillermo del Toro’s magnum opus. It feels like a film he could’ve only made at this point in his career, with all the experience he’s gained over the years. It’s a beautiful culmination of all of his previous work, presented as a timeless romantic period piece, with an element of fantasy.


(5 Stars Out of 5)

The Shape of Water – Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Now showing in U.K. cinemas.

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