"Oh God! It's not even human."
"If we do nothing, neither are we."
After spending the last few years on an unfinished project (The Hobbit), an over the top monster movie with mediocre results (Pacific Rim), a visually attractive yet ultimately boring ghost story (Crimson Peak), and a decent vampire television series that went on for far too long (The Strain), Guillermo del Toro has returned to form in the "so beautiful it hurts", The Shape of Water. Nearly perfect in its fantastical storytelling, this film gave me a feeling of joy at the wonder of it all. The attention to detail with del Toro's vision and artistic style of the early 1960's, the playful score, and the characters who bring every moment to life, makes this a must see, well for adults more than anything. Aside from its compliments, del Toro's ability to tell a sometimes bloody tale without the restrictions of a family friendly rating, makes all of the difference. Could you have pictured his 2006 classic Pan's Labyrinth with a PG-13 rating? It wouldn't have had that special something if it did. Same here, there's just the right amount of gore juxtaposed to the delightful tones of a black & white musical, to create a swirl of foul elegance that only Guillermo can deliver.
This charming yet bittersweet story stands out most particularly because of its cast. With four main roles plus a handful of well placed supporting characters, The Shape of Water adds to its visuals with some of the best actors that Hollywood has to offer. Sally Hawkins (Godzilla 2014) brings a hopeful smile to her sad and often lonely character. Richard Jenkins (Step Brothers) expertly captures the spirit of a closeted gay man who just wants to love somebody. Octavia Spencer (The Help) lightens the mood just by doing what she does best, which is overreacting to everything. And Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) as the film's big bad meanie with all of the authority of a government yes man, once again knocks it out of the park with his ferocious rage and terrifying calmness. Although he never says anything, I believe that Doug Jones (Hellboy) deserves a mention as the proclaimed Amphibian Man, because of his tireless endeavor at making us pity his creature. Michael Stuhlbarg (Fargo the Series) and Nick Searcy (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) also get a shout out for playing effective roles.
|Michael Shannon intimidates Octavia Spencer|
What Works- "What's she saying?!", Shannon's nooner with the wifey, Stuhlbarg gets the fishhook, Stickland gets Zelda's husband out of his chair, Giles sure loves that key lime pie, and the flooding of the theater.
What Doesn't- I'm not much of a fan for bestiality, no matter how romantically it gets portrayed. That includes the donkey scene from Clerks II. "I miss my donkey."
The Shape of Water is beautiful, ugly, hopeful, and grim. And that's why it's one of 2017's best films. Guillermo del Toro has reinvigorated my anticipation for his passion projects with this one. By far, this his best work since Pan's Labyrinth. If you love the art and passion of true filmmaking, then this should be at the top of your list for your next trip to the theater. Now if I could just figure out what the actual shape of the water is supposed to be.
Rating- 8.5 out of 10
R | 2h 3min | Adventure, Drama, Fantasy | 8 December 2017 (Canada)
At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writers: Guillermo del Toro (screenplay by), Vanessa Taylor (screenplay by)
Stars: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon