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The Shape of Water (dir. del Toro)

Image: Sally Hawkins as Elisa bonds with the creature © Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight/ Fox Film Corporation [Source: IMDB]

 ★★★★★

In this Cold War era top-secret US facility, a lonely, mute janitor (Sally Hawkins) unexpectedly finds compassion and connection with an amphibious creature being held captive. After further curiosity, she forms a unique relationship with the creature.

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Starring: Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon, Octavia Spencer [15]

Guillermo del Toro has made a knack for himself as a director of bringing his b-movie monster filled fantastical imagination to the adult landscape, The Shape of Water is no different as del Toro returns to form, stitching together this lovingly sweet and twisted romance. What is strikingly prominent above all else in the case of The Shape of Water and del Toro’s other work is his authentic genius, a word that sounds clichéd when talking of a director of a certain calibre, however, evidently in The Shape of Water del Toro’s detail orientation and particular vision for his film is unmatched in its execution.

More than most other films, you will find yourself noticing the production and stage design, its meticulous and striking character does wonders in the world building of the film. The familiar cinematic landscape of 1960s America is suddenly otherworldly and hauntingly beautiful, aided by the vividly distinct cinematography that feels as warm yet itching as the film’s narrative. Which is a wholeheartedly original, moving, appropriately twisted adult fairytale. It’s remarkable that del Toro can connect an audience to a relationship between a mute and a fish, but what really drives this home is the astonishing performance from lead Sally Hawkins, it’s truly inspiring to see just how much she is able to convey and tell an audience through no words at all.

The rest of the cast members hold up this level of finesse with strong performances of their own, in particular, is Richard Jenkins and his character of the gay neighbour, but what sets this character out above the others is that he is given this eloquent side plot, it’s unfortunate that the same level of eloquence was not given to the Michael Shannon’s character’s side plot. Which bogs down the middle act of the film and distracts from the main narrative, it does however, do a decent job to undo the demonization of the character and add to the theme of the film of having an empty part in your life. Sadly though it subtracts from the overall pacing and plotting of the film and leaves a little to be desired in terms of character development.

Despite this, The Shape of Water is downright breathtaking, from its masterful soundtrack, striking performances and its twisted, sweeping, comedic and charismatic storytelling. It does all it can to remind you of the magical experience that is cinema, painstakingly detailed direction and cinematography highlights the unconditional creativity from Guillermo del Toro, who has truly outdone himself with this outlandish romance that is sure to dazzle.

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