The Shape of Water is a dark fantasy romance film, by legendary film veteran Guillermo del Toro. To vastly simplify this is a very strange film but in the best way possible. The uniqueness and overall sense of originality set it apart not only from most other films; but from a lot of del Toro’s other works. The score for this film is excellent exquisitely capturing the 1960’s time period and creating the feeling that you are really in it. I found myself completely immersed in this film and that says a lot about the overall quality of the experience. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen is exceptional, with a lot of beautiful shots, in particular, a low angle shot during the gunfight scene later in the film. The film is built around the relationship between Sally Hawkin’s character of Elisa Esposito, and the man-fish God-like being, simply known as the Amphibian man. As silly as this central premise sounds, it truly is the heart and soul of the film and works surprisingly well. Even the sex scene between the two characters doesn’t come off as just being there for the shock value, but instead as tender and in a way even romantic. The director’s passion for monsters shines through every scene of the film, thus making the romance not only believable but also in a very strange way relatable. The script written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, is outstanding, with each character being fully flushed out and developed into a true whole. Unlike a lot of other films, no characters here feel wasted or underdeveloped. With a prime example of this being the mainly comedic support character of Zelda Delilah Fuller, played by Octavia Spencer, her character is developed and has an interesting backstory. The film like a lot of del Toro’s other works deals with a lot of heavy themes, in this particular case homophobia. Like a true master del Toro shows these themes through his character of Giles played by Richard Jenkins; who we see being the victim of homophobia. Though the scene is only brief, you still get a strong emotional response, and it helps to add context to the time period. Sally Hawkins performance is inspired despite being mute, (except for one fantastic musical number), her character is still wonderfully complex. Hawkins manages to convey nearly every emotion in this film in a sincere and believable way and her performance is a master class. Whats more del Toro features a subplot about the 1960’s space race, which manages to be both a wonderful capturing of the cold war rhetoric of the time, whilst also adding another level of depth to the narrative. Whilst lesser directors might let all these themes and subplots distract from the main narrative, del Toro weaves them together so that each subplot and theme, compliments the main story in a spectacular way. Also, Michael Shannon’s performance as Colonel Richard Strickland manages to be menacing and unpredictable, with his character most likely being a comment on the unhappiness of the idyllic suburban American dream. To conclude this film is a love letter to the weird and the strange, and celebrates everything about it, managing to create real emotions and stakes as well as being funny and charming. This is a must-see for everyone, especially fans of del Toro, I can’t recommend it enough. This is now my number one pick for best picture, it really does deserve to win.
Reviewed by Luke.