Review: The Shape of Water
- Director: Guillermo del Toro.
- Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lauren Lee Smith.
- 15+ cert, 123 mins.
‘The Shape of Water’ is by far the most bizarre film I have ever watched – but probably one of the greatest. It seems like the world agrees, with the film winning a total of four Oscars at the Academy Awards (2018) including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score and Best Production Design.
Directed by legendary Guillermo del Toro, whose known for his contorted dark fantasies, including The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II and Hellboy, his latest creation is certainly a twist of pure strangeness – even by his standards.
Set in a small USA city “near the coast, but far from everything else” during the early-1960’s, this Cold War thriller draws on the space race as a backdrop. The fascinating narrative follows a boundary crossing hybrid that is adventurously endearing as it is ravishingly romantic, a beautiful fantasy that mirrors the themes of Beauty and the Beast in a realistic, melancholy way.
Sally Hawkins is magnificent as mute woman Elisa Esposito, with the film eloquently telling the tale of her mundane day-to-day life, working as a cleaner at Occam Aerospace Research Facility. Her world is suddenly catapulted into a new lease of life when her path crosses an alien-like amphibian creature from the Amazon that is under the possession of Occam, for the US Government to use in their battle against the Soviets.
Elisa, with deaf-signing being her only tool of communication since she was discovered as an orphan “by the river, in the water”, has struggled with her own self-identity for an entire lifetime. Water has always remained a consistent aspect of her life – she boils food with water, bathes in water, works with water, but somehow, she could never find the answer.
However, that all comes to a conclusive end when the mysterious monster, who is also unable to talk, converses back through deaf-signing, creating a unique bond. The film soon spirals into a weird yet wonderful romantic thriller, with a few expansive and erotic scenes taking it to a shockingly curious level. Fit for any romantic, thrill seeker or horror fanatic, this film ticks just about every box – and the shocking twist at the end is set to leave every audience member in awe.
In a clash of power, Dr Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants to learn from this strange beast but is overruled by vindictive government agent Strickland (Michael Shannon). The sinister agent displays his malicious persona by inflicting torture and pain upon the creature, commanding for it to be destroyed. However, Elisa, who has discovered her soulmate within this peculiar beast, will go to any length to save it.
Underpinned by a sublime cast, the film explores the harshness of racism during the early 1960’s with the inclusion of black actress Octavia Spencer who plays Elisa’s friend Zelda Fuller – also a cleaner at the research facility. Strickland’s vulgar, dangerous facade isn’t afraid to pull her down a peg or two, putting her in the place he deems fitting.
The fascinating, unusual narrative is so intriguing, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the big screen. With every twist and turn, you will constantly want to find out what is going to happen next.
Two hours of truly captivating entertainment that anyone who likes fantasy films would enjoy. Completely worth the watch.