Sally Hawkins shines in a fantasy for fans of Guillermo del Toro's romantic streak.
Reliably, director Guillermo del Toro’s mind goes to squishy, sexual places. He’s a true voluptuary, not just the guy behind those bony creatures from 'Pan’s Labyrinth' but also, per last year’s Crimson Peak', a believer in grand, melodramatic flourishes. Del Toro’s latest, the tremblingly romantic 'The Shape of Water', should be an orgasmic flood for his fans, who want their fantasies served with a side of adultness. If you can imagine an aggressively adorable (and somewhat effortful) version of 'Amélie' in which our hero sleeps with 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon', then you'll totally be feeling this.
It’s 1962 and Elisa (Sally Hawkins, delivering a flow of enraptured expressions) is a mute loner who works – somewhat improbably – in a secret government facility in Baltimore. (Go with it.) Even though Del Toro hammers you over the head with every green-hued retro detail, try to stay focused on Elisa. She loves watching musicals on her tiny TV, and she adores her closeted gay neighbour, an illustrator named Giles (Richard Jenkins, also the film’s narrator). Basically, though, her life is empty, until a metal tank is wheeled into her office, containing an organism that could be a 'god,' a merman or an alien. Made of sinewy muscles and quivering scales (he’s performed, balletically, by del Toro regular Doug Jones), it turns out this 'asset' is actually Elisa’s Romeo, and – as she starts to flirt with the mystery man, feeding him hard-boiled eggs and pressing up against the glass – 'The Shape of Water' floats to a magical place of perfect bliss.
That’s the part that works gorgeously – their weird mutual attraction and Alexandre Desplat’s murky underwater score – and I don’t know if I have the heart to say that everything else is a little stiff. As sophisticated as del Toro can be in blending the supernatural with the sexy (the eroticism here will catch you off guard), this film’s Cold War intrigue plays like a high schooler’s book report. Scowling Michael Shannon embodies yet another meanie: a brutal husband and government agent who stands in the way of blooming love. Russians skulk; paranoia looms; there are tense showdowns in diners that evoke harsh Civil Rights–era realities. This political layer doesn’t feel earned. Didn’t del Toro realise that interspecies romance with an illegal alien would be timely enough? Regardless, don’t let this overly lacquered context keep you away. 'The Shape of Water' is a movie of too many ideas. For that reason alone, it drinks like a bottomless glass of velvety wine.
Cast and crew
Average User Rating
3.9 / 5
- 5 star:3
- 4 star:7
- 3 star:4
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:0
Like all of Del Toro's works 'SOW' is a lovingly crafted film, if you like Del Toro's style then you will like this film. If you are looking for depth or something away from the mainstream then maybe this is not for you.....fine performances, lovely camerawork. Del Toro offers intelligence & history but all his films only flirt with them. I found myself wanting Capra or Zemeckis instead.
I guess 3 stars goes out for the fantastic cinematography, even though the obvious reference to all of Jean-Pierre Jeunet´s movies City of the Lost Children, Amelie. Both the flawless visuals and the editing with the music as part of the movement was done beautifully. Excellent acting and casting but the story is a real fail, Nothing to say, what a simple bland story. It seems like a movie for a very young crowd that doesn't really have the heroes a young crowd need ei: The Goonies. Really unimpressed and though the cinematography works as part of the script wonderfully, nothing new so not really anything to be worth staying inside of the viewer.
I have only seen two of director Guillermo del Toro’s previous movies, ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, both of which combine grim goings-on in the Spanish Civil War with weird happenings and other ghostly phenomena.
Here we have a similar combination set in ‘50s USA when an odd South American fish creature with humanoid features is shipped into a secret military laboratory. It has enough superhuman abilities to interest the dastardly Russky spies. The Cold War was at its height at the time, of course.
Sally Hawkins delivers one of her best ever performances as a humble mute cleaner at the lab who is more than kind to the creature and there are plenty of other sub-plots rumbling along.
Superb cinematography helps suspend ones disbelief and there is a towering effort from Michael Shannon playing an evil security officer with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever (boos and hisses).
The film has garnered many award nominations and if you let yourself go along with the preposterous unlikeliness of the whole shebang it is a most agreeable and well-spent couple of hours.
Although not all of it totally works, teetering on the brink of silliness at times, this film is carried off with such attention to detail and luscious production that I just have to give it 4 stars. It is suggested that the creature may have come from Brazil - clearly del Toro is aware of the merman legend of the Tupi Indians that is a popular myth across South America, and there are interesting allusions throughout to colonial brutality and racism. Nice to hear (and see) a bit of Carmen Miranda too. Michael Shannon is fantastic on screen - he just has the most amazing face. A flawed film no doubt, but very hard not to be enchanted by it...