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THE SHAPE OF WATER
Guillermo Del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro
The Best Picture winner at the 2018 Academy Awards, Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape Of Water was a typically strange tale for the director as it followed a mute janitor who falls in love with an Amphibian Man who is being held in a secret government facility.
Sally Hawkins is Elisa, the cleaner with a monotonous daily routine who identifies with the aforementioned creature and decides to help him when it becomes clear that, after much torture, Michael Shannon's sadistic military official will likely let him die. It's a very simple tale and it's not unlike many other fantasy romance stories but it is undeniably really well told. Guillermo Del Toro brings to the film his usual brand of effortless charm, visual flair and sudden brutality with some extra whimsy thrown in à la Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Armed with some gorgeous cinematography, a lovely Oscar-winning score by Alexandre Desplat and a pitch-perfect cast, what The Shape Of Water lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer competence on all levels. There's a fairy tale quality to many of Del Toro's works and this film is no exception: it's a sweet and often heartbreaking love story and there's definitely something irresistible about it.
Elisa's friends include a down-and-out artist neighbor called Giles (an excellent Richard Jenkins) and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) who looks out for her and acts as her interpreter. The "fish-man" is, of course, Doug Jones covered head-to-toe in make-up and there's an unlikely ally in the form of a Soviet double-agent (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). The film takes a few poetic leaps but, unlike the dream or dream-like sequences in Pan's Labyrinth, they're rarely nightmarish. Instead, we see Elisa and the Amphibian Man share a dance like they're in an MGM musical or fill up an entire bathroom with water.
This is certainly Del Toro's most whimsical film to date but a particularly unsettling Michael Shannon performance, the cat-eating scene, some occasional nudity and other elements just about save it from being too saccharine. As enjoyable as the film is, however, one wishes that there was a bit more to it because, as it stands, it's a nice fable but it's not exactly unpredictable or anything ground-breaking. In the end, it still feels a bit like the ending of Splash got its own spin-off movie somehow.
Fans of Guillermo Del Toro's work (and everyone else) should have a good time watching The Shape Of Water. Even though it's frankly a bit slight substance-wise and the Oscars were arguably a bit too generous with it, it's a charming and well made film with lots of talent involved all around.