From the talented mind of Guillermo del Toro comes one of the most highly praised and cherished films of 2017, The Shape of Water.
Taking place during the early Cold War years, the story focuses on a mute U.S. government lab employee named Elisa (played wonderfully by Sally Hawkins). Living a quite isolated life, things change forever when she discovers a classified government secret in the lab — a scaled, one-of-a-kind creature taken from South America. Elisa quickly develops a romantic bond with the Amphibian Man (as I will refer to him as), and even hatches a daring plan to rescue him from the facility. What follows is an exciting love story that’s both quaint and dramatic.
The Shape of Water had a nice 1950’s era look, with a distinct, Guillermo del Toro style to it. Set designs (like the chambers of the Amphibian Man) and their lighting were reminiscent of del Toro’s visually artistic work on Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. Even the Amphibian Man himself was aesthetically similar to monsters I saw in Hellboy, only with a Creature from the Black Lagoon look.
And like many of del Toro’s other films, the fantasy elements fused seamlessly with the more grounded plot points. Some scenes would be engulfed in high-stakes tension between Elisa and the intimidating Colonel Strickland (played fiercely by Michael Shannon). Other contrasting moments would have this lighthearted, fantasy whimsy to them, mostly pertaining to the romantic bond between Elisa and the Amphibian Man. This romance, which is the cornerstone of the whole film, unfolds in the most magical and marvelous of ways. And the creature-human gap between the two doesn’t come off as jarring as one would think.
The Shape of Water was a beautifully romantic story that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. The love story of Elisa and the Amphibian Man was more emotionally moving and heartfelt than any love story I’ve seen in a long time. The performances were incredibly convincing, the cinematography distinct, and the story both traditional and novel at the same time. All the pieces fell perfectly together for The Shape of Water, making it an intense and exciting fairy tale of the highest quality, and one that I plan on returning to for future viewings.
The Verdict: A