The Shape of Water: Five Reasons You'll Love it
Known for films such as Hellboy and the enchanting Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro is one of the most unique and gifted filmmakers of the modern era and this week sees his latest creation arrive on cinema screens.
The Shape of Water occupies a uniquely unusual space somewhere on the cinematic spectrum between Creature from the Black Lagoon and Singin' in the Rain, an idea that few other directors could pull off, but an intriguing prospect in the hands of someone like del Toro.
Set in the early 1960s in Baltimore, the story centres around the unlikely relationship between a mute cleaner working at a government facility for scientific research, and an amphibious humanoid captured and tortured in the name of American supremacy over the Soviet Union.
With the film arriving in cinemas today, we caught a screening and rounded up five reasons why we think you'll love it...
It's a love story unlike any other...
Guillermo del Toro's new film has been described as a fantasy, a drama and even science fiction, but while The Shape of Water is arguably all of these things, first and foremost it is a story about forbidden love, and the loneliness that can result. The relationship that develops between Sally Hawkins' female lead, Elisa, and the amphibious creature held captive at the hands of the U.S. government is so touching that any thoughts of its inter-species nature simply melt away. It may be allegorical and its message of love transcending all barriers certainly feels prescient in our times, but most of all it's a love story that's as heartwarming as any and often surprisingly funny, despite their star-crossed circumstances.
Sally Hawkins puts in a mesmerising performance
Any lead role that involves a character who cannot speak is always going to be a tough role to pull off, but del Toro is as highly adept a visual storyteller as any director you could name and even without the use of dialogue, Sally Hawkins is utterly magnetic throughout. Elisa is a lovestruck dreamer you can't help but root for and while she may be mute, her every emotion precisely expressed, beautifully framed and keenly felt.
Michael Shannon makes a terrific villain
Shannon's menacing antagonist is enjoyably detestable from the moment he arrives on screen, representing everything bad about the McCarthyist paranoia of the Cold War era. But like all good villains, Colonel Strickland isn't just some two dimensional villainous stereotype; this is clearly a man wrestling with his own form of loneliness and desperation in manner that generates at least a little sympathy. But he's also a ruthless careerist, a sex pest and a sadist who takes far too much pleasure in the more violent aspects of his job. Strickland is the film's real monster and Shannon does an excellent job here.
The 1960s period detail is gloomily evocative and perfectly rendered
The Baltimore of the 1960s depicted here is about as far removed from the “summer of love” as one could imagine, still mired in the styles and attitudes of the previous decade and often forebodingly bleak. That said, every detail from the cars to the furniture has been carefully presented and Dan Laustsen's cinematography helps conjure an atmosphere that's oppressive but entirely absorbing.
del Toro pays homage to the 'Golden Age' of cinema
As much as the film is a love story at its core, it's also a love letter to cinema's golden age, with numerous references to the classic movies of the 1940s and 50s, even featuring a beautifully presented dream sequence in which Elisa and her amphibian lover are transported the set of an MGM-style musical, complete with costumes and backing dancers. From the touching scenes featuring Elisa and her neighbour copying the dance routines of Fred Astaire to the selection of music, del Toro indulges his love of the era's films in a way that's completely infectious.