With so many series vying for my attention, it’s hard for me to get immersed in movies nowadays. But The Shape of Water is that rare film that’s so magical you can’t help but fall completely in love with it.
The story of a mute woman who befriends a merman imprisoned in a top-secret government facility, The Shape of Water weaves a mysterious fairytale that’s romantic, funny, and aspirational. Guillermo del Toro’s film isn’t just a feast for the eyes – the cinematography by Dan Laustsen is first-rate and the visuals are breathtaking – it’s full of heart. At its core, it’s a story about minorities, and the people who have no voice. But the film is never preachy, and the themes are subtly rooted in character and their complex motivations. There isn’t a single dull scene across the film’s two-hour runtime, and every frame is amplified by Alexandre Desplat’s atmospheric musical choices. It’s a truly harmonious combination of sight and sound.
As a mute janitor with a strict (and hilarious) daily routine, Sally Hawkins is enormously believable. You never once doubt her “disability”, and it’s a true testament to her skill as an actress that you find yourself completely invested in her character’s (wordless) journey. As for the supporting cast, Richard Jenkins is excellent as Elsa’s gay best friend Giles, Octavia Spencer is an absolute hoot as Elsa’s witty coworker Zelda, and Michael Shannon is predictably despicable as the villain of the piece. Sure I would have appreciated a bit more dimension and complexity where our antagonist is concerned, but that’s a minor complaint when everything else about this film works so incredibly well.
Bolstered by a sensational cast and packed with emotion, The Shape of Water is imaginative and memorable in every way.