Guillermo Del Toro is a visionary filmmaker. There is no denying that: He is one of the few filmmakers out there with a particular and pretty peculiar look on the world. His films are imbued with darkness and intrigued, coloured with murky cinematography and inventive fantasy. From The Devil’s Backbone to Crimson Peek, Guillermo Del Toro is an outstanding filmmaker who believes in the powers of monsters and all that they gift to cinema. He is also bereft of an Academy Award; one that he has earned many times over.
Now he is back with romantic drama The Shape of Water, which has been making waves since it premiered at film festivals last year. Could the film finally bag him that coveted Best Director Oscar?
Nominated for 13 Academy Awards, The Shape of Water revolves around Elisa, a janitor who works in a scientific lab , cleaning up after shady and secretive experiments. Elisa is mute and speaks with hand signals, translated thorough her friends Zelda and Giles. Elisa lives a simple life above a cinema, working to a routine almost rigidly. This all changes when a sea creature is transported to the facility alongside a disgruntled and vicious Colonel. When Elisa connects with the creature, on a personal and passionate level, it becomes her mission to save him. But she’s going to need a lot of help…
Waves of praise have been crashing onto this movie since its premiere at Toronto Film Festival. It is no wonder; this is a magical marvel and an enthralling enchantment that is impeccably weaved. The detailed lusciousness of Del Toro’s work here is a spectacle that must be witnessed on the big screen. It oozes with magic and breathes new life into the classic culture of monster movies. Sure, at times the film follows formulaic structures and its plot is mostly predictable but the flourishes that Del Toro adds make it feel original and grand. From the hue of mystical green, making the film shimmer with a watery aesthetic constantly, to the grand set pieces that house this intimate and daring story, there is a Del Toro touch to it all. It’s a great feat, a tale of love nestled in this peculiar horror sci-fiction.
Sally Hawkins is impeccable here. We are truly blessed with Hawkins in our lives. Without dialogue, Hawkins conveys so much richness of Elisa’s plucky and rambunctious nature that is spirited throughout the film. The Academy Award nominated actress is terrific, with intricate levels of emotion and simply engaging from the moment you see her wake into her daily routine. Elisa is an enriching character who is undeterred from what her heart wants. Brave, sexually confident, and brazen in her apparent meekness, she is an undeniably fierce heroine.
Hawkins is flanked by a monstrous Michael Shannon, the endearing Octavia Spencer, the scene-stealing Michael Stuhlbarg, and the fantastic Richard Jenkins who lend their support to Elisa’s plight. Of course, here screen partner here, the equally worldess Doug Jones, is brilliant. His Abe Sapian/Creature From the Black Lagoon costume, make-up and prosthetics, vividly bring to life this beguiling blue and curious creature. Jones is no stranger to monster portrayals and his work here is equally impressive: an innocent yet dangerous soul who finds a kindred spiritin Elisa.
The Shape of Water is an unconventional yet timeless romantic romp here that courses through horror and action like a dew drop down a leaf. It’s delicate and dream-like; a fantastic piece deserving of the praise it was been drenched in.
The Shape of Water is out now.