The Shape of Water (2018) – Film Review
Shape of Water externally recalls the American 1950s B-movies but is set during the early 1960s and both contains and subverts the conventions established in that format which turns what could have been a routine monster flick into a romance story.
There are scientists, government agents, soldiers, blue collar workers and professionals who inhabit a beautifully stylised period Baltimore soon after the start of the space race.
Sally Hawkins delivers an astonishing, expressive performance – without using her voice for the most part – bringing glorious life to an orphaned mute woman, Eliza, who is as resourceful as she is lonely and kind.
Eliza lives in a tired flat above a decaying traditional cinema with very few customers. Living next door to her is Giles, who is a closeted ageing artist who has been let go from an advertising agency and perhaps drinking too much.
Eliza works the night shift cleaning in a government facility alongside her best friend Zelda (played by Octavia Spencer), who also translates for Eliza, when a mysterious ‘asset’ is brought in for examination after being captured in South America.
The asset, a strange amphibious creature, is escorted by the intense and ambitious Richard Strickland (played with villainous relish by Michael Shannon) who locks horns with sympathetic scientist with secrets Dr Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) while trying to curry favour with army top brass in order to advance his career.
A curious Eliza discovers the creature and makes a connection with the silent prisoner but is dismayed when the order comes down from the army brass to dissect the creature who she has developed strong feelings for as a kindred spirit.
Director Guillermo Del Toro excels in this kind of intimate world building on a budget with richly realised characters in an engaging story and his latest film stands up very well against one of his best – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – and you can feel the energy and tension in each wonderful scene of the talented director’s story.
The Shape of Water is yet another fairy tale fable with subtleties, and unabashed adult themes, that will have keen watchers revisiting their thoughts on the story and its relationship with the modern day.
It’s leading the pack for Oscar nominations with a remarkable 13 Oscar and will be well worth one or two of the major ones for its timely storytelling.
The Shape of Water (15; strong violence, language, sex, nudity; 123 minutes)
Director(s): Guillermo del Toro
Cast Includes: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer
Summary: THE SHAPE OF WATER is a fantasy drama in which a mute woman working in a research facility develops a relationship with an amphibious creature.
Rating: ***** (An instant classic romantic fantasy tale by Guillermo Del Toro containing superb performances led by Sally Hawkins)