Guillermo del Toro (director)
2hrs 3min (length)
14 February 2020 (released)
14 February 2018
“If I spoke about it - if I did - what would I tell you? I wonder,” is how the glorious The Shape of Water opens, setting the scene perfectly for the mystery and beauty that follows.
Sally Hawkins stars as Elisa Esposito, a mute janitor who works at a secret government laboratory in Baltimore during the Cold War, when American/Russian relations were at their most tense.
She works alongside feisty but caring Zelda (Octavia Spencer), who has become a good friend and her interpreter over the years, and she also counts her neighbour, illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), who is struggling with both work and his sexuality, as a close confident.
Elisa has a simple and structured life, which quickly gets turned on its head after she catches a glimpse of the mysterious amphibian man-like creature (Doug Jones) wheeled into the laboratory one day.
The man in charge of the covert study is nasty Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who happily tortures the creature he fished out of the waters of South America, in a bid to exploit its secrets to boost the U.S.’s space race chances.
In spite of her muteness, or more likely because of her lack of vocal communication, Elisa strikes up a bond with the creature, and she’s soon secretly visiting it to play it records and feed it eggs. She even manages to teach it some sign language, and she soon embarks on a plan to rescue it from the clutches of the evil Strickland.
Unbeknown to her, Strickland has been ordered to dispose of the human-like sea being, much to the dismay of Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), a scientist at the lab who has a secret all of his own.
With the help of Guy, Hoffstetler and a reluctant Zelda, Elisa smuggles the creature out, and takes it back to her apartment, making a new home for it in her bathroom.
However, Strickland is hot on her heels, and as a strange and otherworldly romance blossoms between woman and sea creature, Elisa is acutely aware that time is running out for her, the amphibian and their love.
The Shape of Water debuts in U.K. cinemas on 14 February, and while this isn't your typical Valentine’s Day movie, it’s filled to the brim with love – ethereal, transcendental and raw.
Guillermo del Toro dives, quite literally, right back into the fantasy genre with his newest film, with the director making the feature sparkle with magic. The ‘60s setting works perfectly too, adding a charming bygone era feel to the movie.
The cast do a superb job in their roles, with Shannon making the ideal villain and Spencer perfectly cast as the loveable mother-like figure. Hawkins shines as the mute Elisa, showing her skills as an actress reach far beyond any dialogue, and Jenkins’ dulcet tones will reduce you to tears as the credits roll.
The Shape of Water is up for a mega 13 Oscars, with del Toro a shoo-in for his first-ever Academy Award. Alexandre Desplat's haunting score, which perfectly encapsulates the watery love story, also looks likely to take a gong home too.
Although belief has to be suspended ever so slightly, this is a magical and majestic fantasy, that needs to be seen to be believed.