The Shape of Water is the latest other-worldly story written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962, where a mute janitor working at a lab falls in love with an amphibious man being held captive there and devises a plan to help him escape. Guillermo del Toro has recieved acclaim throughout his career for being a visionary director and writer, and his ability to bring fantasy stories like this one with as little CGI as possible is incredible. He’s finally getting Oscar buzz for The Shape of Water, his latest film that, while the concept of a character bonding with a creature of some sort and trying to save it from those attempting to kill it having been depicted in many films such as E.T., How to Train Your Dragon, and Beauty and the Beast, this one is far different in execution — and definitely not a film for kids. There is strong sexual content and violence, but it fits the overall tone and themes the movie is meant to deliver. Sally Hawkins is absolutely fantastic in the leading role of Eliza, and she delivers one of the greatest performance of the year — and her character has absolutely no dialogue! She is able to deliver an emotional performance with only her expressions, and she makes us care for her character deeply without having to speak a word. Another excellent performance is from Michael Shannon, who plays the main antagonist who is filled with rage and hate against the creature and anyone who gets in his way of hurting it. Octavia Spencer, who plays Eliza’s best friend at work, has some great moments of both humor and emotion, and Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg are very good too. Not to mention Doug Jones, who plays the creature himself, with lots of costumes and makeup and no CGI for his transformation, which helps his performance feel more realistic and interactive with the other actors in the film.
Guillermo del Toro has stated that this is the movie he is most proud of, and it’s not hard to see why. He such a great eye for these stories and has a creative way of telling them, not just with his style but also with his writing. First of all, his directing of the film is marvelous, with some beautiful ways of capturing certain images and everything looks so artistic throughout the film. The production design and colors also stand out, and del Toro constantly references classic cinema throughout, there’s even a scene where Hawkins imagines herself dancing with the creature in a ’50s-style musical number. The music from Alexandre Desplat is also very nice to hear and it’s one of his best scores in recent years. Not only does the film look majestic, but the writing is very good because although the concept isn’t the most original, the themes and turns the plot takes are unexpected and different. Guillermo del Toro writes and creates this story like a fairy tale, like he does most of his stories, and though it’s not a literal fairy tale, he treats every character importantly and brings this story to life as if it’s a Pan’s Labyrinth-esque fantasy tale. The themes aren’t mostly about being kind to those who are different, about about those who feel lonely and incomplete, and how we try to fulfill ourselves. There is a lot of gore and nudity in the film, which may disturb some, so just a warning to those who don’t like explicit content. The overall plot may feel weird if you think watching a romance between a woman and a creature will disturb you, but the writing feels complex and the story is thrilling and powerful, bringing the story to life on the big screen very effectively. Although some of the scenes without Hawkins on screen felt less intriguing than the scenes with Hawkins as Eliza and Jones as the creature, and the ending, while not bad at all, felt a little bit like a missed opportunity, this joins Pan’s Labyrinth as one of del Toro’s best films, and the awards buzz for this one is quite well deserved, so I recommend you check this one out in theaters before the awards come around.