Cert: 15 Runtime: 123 mins Director: Guillermo Del Toro Cast: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones
Once The Shape of Water was announced I had to be there, the fact that Del Toro’s latest won’t hit cinemas until February it was a must. As many of you will know Del Toro is one of my favourite film-makers. The initial trailer was utterly mesmerising and the acclaim has been unreal. So what is The Shape of Water about you ask? At the height of the Cold War, in a secret US laboratory, a young, mute woman begins to communicate with a strange, aquatic creature. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), whose only friends are her gay artist neighbour (Richard Jenkins) and a fellow cleaner (Octavia Spencer), is alarmed by the behaviour of research head Strickland (Michael Shannon), who sees the creature as nothing more than an oversized lab rat. A fellow scientist (Michael Stuhlbarg) of dubious connections is decidedly more curious, especially when he sees a bond forming between Elisa and the creature.
The Shape of Water is one of Del Toro’s most soulful films. The first half moved me so much, it was bittersweet. From Elisa’s loneliness to her meeting the creature. This thrilling, touching and surreal film explores the many forms and aspects of monsters. The worst monster of them all is the human heart, and yet it is also the most kind and beautiful. The film offers apt encouragement to speak up and act when others are in trouble and in pain. In this world of rising fascists who peddle hatred and opposition to science, art, sympathy and basically to all humanity, such encouragement is sorely needed.As expected with Del Toro, his visually stunning colour palette is ever present with each shot of the film. From the wardrobe, the look of the government facility, the vehicle to even the food, green dominates the film reflecting off of cool, organic algae and water. With the cinematographer Paul D. Austerberry, he creates long panning shots that move so beautiful and organic. My only complaint is that you loose connection with the characters towards the middle segment. The plot became too generic for me, but the back end of Shape of Water salvages it for me.
Sally Hawkins take a bow, if this performance isn’t award worthy I don’t know what is. While not having to use dialogue, she relies on so much sincere and emotional expressions to really show how her character thinks and reacts. I have fallen head over heel for Sally Hawkins here. Doug Jones as the Asset brings mime-like hand gestures and human-like curiosity and soul to make the this character feel believable and intelligent. Octavia Spencer is just a breath of fresh air to watch and ads so much fun to the scenes. Richard Jenkins nearly steals the show with his dry witted and charming performance, a very different kind of performance from him. Michael Shannon is getting type-cast as villains, his performance is a reminder why he is so amazing at it. I went to a Screen Talk with Del Toro after, he said that if you can’t love someone for who or what they are don’t love them. That is the perfect way to describe The Shape of Water. It will cast a spell on any audience, beauty is in the eye of the beholder my friends.