From master storyteller Guillermo del Toro comes THE SHAPE OF WATER, an otherworldly fable set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Doug Jones. – (Source)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94% (Critics) / 85% (Audience)
MetaScore: 86 – Universal acclaim
Directed By: Guillermo del Toro
Written By: Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Guillermo del Toro is a fairy tale fanboy as evidenced by petty much everything he has done from HELLBOY to PAN’S LABYRINTH and the secret to how he is able to make his takes on the fairy tale work is that del Toro recognizes that all fairy tales need to embrace the dark just as much as they embrace the light and romance. And in THE SHAPE OF WATER, del Toro, along with script writing partner Vanessa Taylor, get that mix just right.
On the directing front, del Toro has delivered a gorgeous film that really takes the viewer on a visual journey that especially is evident in how the film begins awash in drab colors but as Sally Hawkin’s Elisa begins interacting with the Amphibian Man we start to get pops of color interspersed throughout every scene.
This film also has a wonderful cast who all give great performances. Sally Hawkins is revelatory in a role that had very few moments where she was able to speak yet still conveyed every emotion vividly. Richard T. Jenkins and Octavia Spencer a Sally’s two best friends (and partners in crime) were both comedic bright spots and Jenkins also provided a lot of convincing melancholy as an older gay man in a time when being gay was not acceptable but who was still longing for love and companionship as well as professional validation.
Michael Shannon is still the best actor in Hollywood when it comes to delivering a character with an undercurrent of intense malevolence boiling right under a barely there surface veneer.
And Doug Jones should not be forgotten either as he puts on yet another stalwart show of acting physicality as the Amphibian Man. The way he can show so much character and emotion while under head to to heavy makeup effects is astonishing.
As good as Richard T. Jenkins’ performance was, the subplot of his longing for a local pie shop server and trying to get his job back at an ad agency just felt a bit hollow and tacked on to me.
Trying to figure out the logistics of sexual relations between a human woman and a fish man makes my head hurt.
Final Verdict: THE SHAPE OF WATER is a beautifully directed, beautifully acted, just all around beautiful movie that delivers a dark (and slightly horrific at times) fairy tale with a wonderfully gooey offbeat romantic center. I can’t recommend it enough.