Reviews: Del Toro’s finest work in years – the Shape of Water
The Shape of Water,
Directed by Guillermo del Toro,
Starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Doug Jones
Guillermo Del Toro steps behind the camera once again to return to his best, in one of the finest Romantic movies. Yes you read that right, but mixed with his usual flair for the fantastical. The story centres around a mute cleaner at a national science laboratory, she lives a very controlled and mundane, by the numbers existence. Her next door neighbour is an artist who is struggling to find work and love, as in the early 60s, homosexuals were not able to be as out as they are now. They both live above a cinema that is struggling to bring in the viewers. When a top secret being is brought into the lab it changes everyone’s lives.
This is, without doubt, one of the best movies of the year. It’s not that Del Toro is giving us a romance, or that he’s mixing it with horror and fantasy, it’s that the perfect storm of Director, Writing, Cast, and the world building that goes on is just plain flawless. There is a feeling straight out of the gate that you are going to watch something that is just out of the blue from the opening credits. Del Toro returns to form; even though I enjoyed Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim to a point, this is what the man is really capable of, and it’s so good to see him return to this type of film.
Don’t get me wrong on the Romance labelling either, it is a deeply romantic film, but it’s also a horror, thriller, fantasy and comedy. Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, the mute cleaner whose almost clockwork existence is shattered by the creature coming into the lab, but changed for the better. Hawkins once again gives another amazing performance and is just delightful isn’t she always?). We’re not going to see her receive the Oscar for the film this year that she deserves it for but maybe for this, as it’s nearly at that level; the film I’m talking about is Maudie, which you should check out as it also contains one of the strongest Ethan Hawke performances that he’s ever given. Anyway Hawkins is beautiful and sharp in her performance.
Michael Shannon plays the intimidating Government Agent that is in charge of the strange being that is brought into the lab. Again Shannon, like everyone in this film, is just at his best, no one can play characters like this like him. Michael Stuhlbarg who blew me away this year in Call Me By Your Name plays the doctor who has a secret other job. Octavia Spencer redeems herself from the awful The Shack this year by giving us the comedic relief. Richard Jenkins plays the next door neighbour and closest thing to a friend that Elisa has. Jenkins is always watchable and here shows why he’s one of the best character actors that Hollywood has working today.
When the trailers for this film dropped online a lot of my friends, who are also Del Toro fans, thought that this might be an Abe Sapien, from Hellboy, origin movie. There are a lot of clues in the film that would make you think that too, but it’s not, The Shape of Water is its own being like the creature itself. Doug Jones, who is shamefully underrated for his performances (outside of genre fans, who know full well how amazing this actor’s physicality of theatre can be), plays the creature and has a silent subtlety to his performances as he always does.
The Shape of Water creates the world of the 1960s with perfection, throwing in the references of the time, the cultural and social prejudices, with an ease that other, lesser directors make great efforts to prove that they can do. I cannot tell you how much I loved this movie, the only flaw I have is that it is slightly too long, but then again I can’t tell you which piece I’d cut, as every scene is a delight and necessary. When The Shape of Water hits our screens, for fans of film, not genres, but film in general this is one that you are going to want to see on the biggest screen possible. If I’ve earned your trust since gracing your computer or phone screens then trust me that this is Del Toro’s finest work in years and his best film since Pan’s Labyrinth.