Guillermo Del Toro has embodied consistency throughout his career in Hollywood. From Hellboy, Hellboy 2, The Devil’s Backbone, and my favorite Del Toro film, Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro has been a staple of Hollywood’s most respected directors and a true master in dark fantasy films. It is no surprise that Del Toro’s latest, The Shape Of Water, continues the trend of Del Toro’s portraits on the big screen, this time channeling his love for the creature from the Black Lagoon and turns it in to a beautiful fantasy romance, which embraces the sentiment that there is truly someone out there for everyone.
The Shape Of Water tells the story of mute janitor Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibious, creature (Doug Jones) and their developing relationship throughout the film. The creature is imprisoned at the government facility where she works and is severely beaten and tortured on a regular basis. When the creature’s life is threatened by a government agent (Michael Shannon), Elisa plans to break the creature out of the facility which in turn they develop a relationship similar to one as seen before like in Splash.
Similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape Of Water establishes a dreamlike sanctuary within the early half of the film and it serves the story well as its characters are able to use this as an escape from the reality of the 1960’s Cold War backdrop. Del Toro effectively creates a world that allows its characters to lose sight of the realities of war, similar to cinephiles and the escape of watching a film.
In what is sure to be one of the most competitive Best Actress races in quite some time, Sally Hawkins should be at the forefront of that list. Hawkins is amazing to watch during the entire film. Her character’s inability to speak doesn’t hamper her in any way from conveying true emotion. Her and Doug Jones’s relationship in the film is an ode to the silent film era where little words are needed to portray true love. An ideal example of actions speak louder than words. Hawkins ability to show such range in an era where dialogue is a necessity in most films merits a nomination and a possible win for this performance.
If there is one thing that effects the overall impact of the film is its predictability. The narrative of the film follows a similar safe path that while leading to a satisfying conclusion, felt formulaic. Despite the familiarity of narrative, The Shape of Water is still a unique, sympathetic look at love that continues to display Del Toro’s excellence as a director.
The Shape Of Water is another success for Del Toro, who has yet to received a Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards but looks to be on his way to his first. A film that should be looked at and appreciated for its beauty and message.
Reel talk gives The Shape Of Water 3.5 Reels