Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer. Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Running time 123 minutes long. Budget $19.5 million. Certificate 15.
From Guillermo del Toro, the creative genius behind Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Hellboy 1 & 2, Blade 2, The Devil’s Backbone and also Mimic and Crimson Peak comes his latest, The Shape of Water. Set in the early days of the 1960s during the cold war between the USA and the USSR, The Shape of Water tells the touching story of a love affair between a quiet, mute janitor Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who works at a top-secret government laboratory and a mysterious fish-man (Doug Jones) captured in the depths of South America by sour-faced and by-the-book, god-fearing, family-man Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) and brought back to the US for experimentation. The film follows Elisa as falls in love, then plots to break her fishy boyfriend out of clink with the help of her best friend fellow janitor Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her next door neighbor, artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). Together with the help of an undercover soviet spy Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) they hatch an audacious plot to free the creature from the base and return him to the sea before Strickland can vivisect him, or the Russian's can kill him.
This is a very straight forward, almost slight simple love story which, because it's a del Toro film can be touching and sweet one moment then savage and cruel the next. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the film still strikes at your heart and you find yourself rooting for our heroine and her strange bedfellow. In the lead role Sally Hawkins is a tour de force! Despite her character having no voice, Elisa still manages to make her character seem to shout louder than everyone else and she carries the whole film confidentially and brilliantly. That's not to take anything away from the rest of the cast who are all superb, from the ever reliable Jenkins, to the intensity of Shannon and the world weariness of Octavia, to the 21st Century Lon Chaney Jnr - Doug Jones who once again brings a real depth to another memorable screen monster.
I found this a satisfying and deeply moving movie, the art direction is staggering, the richness of the colour, del Toro’s camera, the make up the lighting all create a wonderfully rich and beautiful film and considering he made it for ‘only’ $19 million is genuinely staggering in itself.
I was moved, captivated and thoroughly engrossed by this film. 9/10