By William Curzon (UK)
The Shape of Water follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a lonely janitor at a top secret research facility in the 1960’s. When a mysterious amphibian creature is held in captivity at the facility, Elisa begins to form a unique relationship with the creature.
Firstly Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s script for this film is brilliant. It really takes full advantage of its 60’s setting to craft a beautiful tale of romance. Most of the characters are written with so much depth and detail, that I immediately became interested to learn more about them. I would also like to highlight that it isn’t an easy task to create a story about a women falling in love with a amphibian creature. Thankfully Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor effortlessly pull off this feat. The story had me invested instantly on multiple levels, starting with the characters, then the growing romance as well, and the mystery and ambiguity behind the existence of the creature. The only weak point of the story is the sub plot. This involved the Soviet’s interest and pursuit in wanting to obtain the creature. This is the only part of the story that felt under developed, if the film ever cut to the specific scenes trying to move this sub plot forward it mostly just felt like an afterthought.
Sally Hawkins is phenomenal. Her character Elisa is a mute and I commend the fact that Guillermo del Toro didn’t make this decision for the character just for the sake of it. It has a purpose, it doesn’t just humanise her character, but it also allows us to understand how her initial fascination with the creature develops into love. She views not being able to speak as an imperfection, which makes herself and the creature similar in ways. She gives such an powerful performance that I could easily resonate with her character, her performance also really grew on me throughout the film.
Doug Jones portrays the creature, credited as the Amphibian Man. It’s a great performance. Unfortunately I fear it will be massively overlooked and underappreciated. I really cared for the Amphibian Man, and the bond that grew between him and Elisa, as did my investment in their relationship. The mannerisms and the facial expressions which Doug Jones used to bring the creature to life made him such a joy to watch. Whenever he was on screen I was transfixed by his performance.
Michael Shannon portrays Colonel Richard Strickland, the man that is in charge of the research facility where the Amphibian Man is housed. This is without a doubt one of his greatest performances to date. It’s what he does with the character which makes it such a fantastic performance. He is so entertaining to watch because you gather that there is something so cynical and evil about Col. Richard Strickland. Michael commands the screen whenever he appears and as the development of Strickland grows, his motivations become more urgent which made him such a thrilling character.
The rest of supporting cast were wonderful. Octavia Spencer plays Zelda who is Elsa’s best friend and coworker. She brings a lot more than just comedic dialogue. At times she becomes a voice of reason for Elisa’s decisions. Sally and Octavia have very believable chemistry that is so good, it makes them seem like close friends. Richard Jenkins also gives a terrific performance as Giles, Elisa’s next door neighbour. It is made very clear in the writing that he is a very close individual to Elisa. I really resonated with his character due to the issues he faced with his sexuality. Also the fact he struck a good balance between comedic and dramatic scenes.
Which gave me no surprise at all the production aspects of this film are excellent. The sets look like real locations and each room feels like it’s filled with history prior to the scenes we spend them in. The costume design and make up work is great. It completely fit the 1960’s cold war setting perfectly. The amazing work by all these artists in the production department, help aid the film to feel like a classic.
Alexandre Desplat’s musical score is simply magnificent. He orchestrates his instruments in such a unique way to create harmonious themes. The score completely stuck with me after the credits rolled and it accompanies the film to such a satisfying degree.
Guillermo del Toro’s direction is spectacular. This film is a true work of art and serves as a glowing example of what filmmaking is all about. He orchestrates some truly enthralling scenes of dialogue between characters and it kept me invested throughout. After two viewings of this film, I truly believe this is one of his best films. That is really saying something when you look at the quality of his filmography.
The Shape of Water is a phenomenal film that is both magical and mesmerising. The performances are fantastic, the production design is great. Also the social commentary present in the film is very relevant to our time. This is truly one of Guillermo del Toro’s best films, it’s a beautiful mixture of all his previous work, presented as a timeless romance with an element of fantasy.
Rating: 5/5BEST QUOTES