“The Shape of Water” is written and directed by Guillermo del Toro and stars Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, and Octavia Spencer. The film is about a mute cleaning lady in a 1960s research facility who becomes involved in a surprising relationship with the subject that is being tested on within the facility, and how their relationship is put to the test once the military begins to step in.
Guillermo del Toro is simply one of the best sci-fi directors of all-time, with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Hellboy,” and “Pacific Rim” under his belt, and this premise seemed right up his ally. The trailer looked terrific, and I was hoping that del Toro would be able to mix the weird with the drama and make a truly compelling sci-fi romance film.
Sally Hawkins is absolutely phenomenal in this film, perfectly representing the mute character of Elisa through incredible face reactions and powerful emotion from hand gestures to body language. Hawkins says so much about her character without almost ever saying a word, and her performance was the backbone to the movie throughout the film, and the way she works with this creature is stunning to watch.
Richard Jenkins, who I remember best for his comedic performances in “Step Brothers” and “The Cabin in the Woods,” has a terrific turn in his role in this movie. Sure, Jenkins infuses the comedy throughout, but his character is much more than comedic relief, as I cared deeply about his character, and loved the dynamic that he had with Hawkins and the creature. Octavia Spencer is equally great, bringing another comedic element while also showing a fantastic foil to Hawkins’ character. Michael Shannon, who I love in pretty much everything, is great here as well doing his usual mean guy trope, but doing it with some added elements that made his character more interesting than expected.
As I previously stated, Guillermo del Toro wrote himself a concept that was right in his wheelhouse, and he truly nails it in both the screenplay and the direction. This is a strange film, obviously, but del Toro makes sure that the cast and the plot always feel very much rooted in reality, and it makes for some truly sensational moments between the creature and the real world. The screenplay is full of life, even if it’s lead character can’t speak, and there are so many times that del Toro amazes with spectacular direction that gets to the heart of the film.
Eight, soon to be nine-time Oscar nominee Alexandre Desplat composes a beautiful score, and one that adds to the drama, the emotion, and the beauty of nearly every scene. Continuing with the technical elements, the creature is gorgeously created, and consistently amazes with his facial expressions and gorgeously-rendered body.
Where “The Shape of Water” really impressed me was in its’ ability to transform and blend genres together. This seems like an outlandish fantasy film at first, but eventually, the more del Toro works his magic and the more Desplat’s score comes into play and the more Hawkins and Jenkins really perform the hell out of this movie, I became 100 percent enwrapped in this gorgeously-told romance film with incredible sequences of drama and love and loss and character development. This is a funny movie when it needs to be, a bizarre movie when it wants to be, and a beautiful movie in every definition of the word, and is one that I will not soon forget.
There are a few times in the middle where the movie slows down in pace, just for a little bit, and I found myself wanting the plot to speed up. There are also some moments in the first act that I wish were drawn out a little more to add some elements to characters. More specifically, there’s a very interesting layer to Jenkins’ character that works well in the movie, but it is only alluded to a few times, and I think this could have made his character even more powerful if the film went further into it.
“The Shape of Water” is a stunning cinematic feat that is wholeheartedly original, brilliantly directed, and stunningly gorgeous. Sally Hawkins is out-of-this-world fantastic in this movie, as there are numerous scenes where she just blew me away, and the supporting cast is nearly as excellent, and Guillermo del Toro makes nearly every scene, no matter how strange, work in strides. This is a phenomenal film that transcends the sci-fi genre and is one that should tug at the heartstrings of anybody who sees it.
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