When looking at directors with their own unique style you think of Tim Burton and his take on the Gothic, Edger Wright and the way he portrays action, but when you look at Guillermo del Toro’s work you realise that nobody could copy his style. Making the audience look at the supernatural with beauty as well as the terrifying and the Shape of Water is truly his love letter to classic monster movies, particularly The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The film follows Elisa Esposita (Sally Hawkins), a cleaner at a top secret USA facility during the 1960s. Elisa creates a bond with an amphibious creature who is being held captive by the US government, being guarded and tortured by the very cruel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon).
Del Toro has created a brilliant film and I really enjoyed it, however it may alienate a few people due to its crazy subject matter. Nevertheless, if you stick with it you will be rewarded with some amazing cinematography and an intriguing story.
It is a celebration of classical cinema genres, it’s not just a monster movie, but a romance, a film noir and a musical. The script is very witty but doesn’t take away from the drama, and a lot of the communication is non-verbal, with sign language being handled with respect and used to enhance the performances. Del Toro’s directing style is just beautiful, and you can see why he’s getting all the praise; the opening scene instantly showed I was going to have a great visual experience and the use of water is truly striking.
Sally Hawkins is fantastic and one of the best performances I’ve seen this year. In my review of Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri I stated that Francis McDormand is front-runner for an Oscar, but Sally Hawkins is her stiff competition. Using non-verbal commination, you truly believe that she is mute, you learn a lot from a cheeky smile or just a look. One scene in particular where she does use her vocals is unexpected and a highlight of the film, as Del Toro’s direction and Sally Hawkins’ performance come together exquisitely to give us a performance that can only be described as majestic.
It truly is a shame Doug Jones who plays the creature, doesn’t get the praise he deserves but from its movements to its facial expressions and visual effects, you truly believe the monster is real. Jones has played a similar role in Del Torro’s Hell Boy franchise as Abe Sapien, but this is truly where he masters the amphibian man.
This is a different performance and you can clearly see more primal and savagery from this merman, but there’s still a purity there. Although you could argue his work is just visual effects, his movements and the way he positions the creature needs to be appreciated for its difficulty, and Jones is truly one of the best.
Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer act very well but play roles we have seen before from the actors, so it was disappointing not seeing them play against type. The main problem I had with Shape of Water is you see where the plot is going to go, and it doesn’t really explain why Sally Hawkins gets the opportunity to sneak into the monster chamber so easily, but because of the unique visuals, I can forgive some lazy writing.
If you’re a fan of Guillermo Del Toro, then you will love this movie as it is a tribute to classic films of a bygone era. He truly has created an unlikely love story that you will find intriguing, disturbing and mesmerising all at the same time while seeing some amazing visuals that could only come out of the head of the great man himself.
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