As ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ destroys the box office this weekend take some time, go back to the theater, and check out Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape Of Water’ to truly understand what ambitious storytelling looks like. The film has already received seven Golden Globe nominations, and should be a factor when Oscar nominations are announced next month.
Del Toro’s creativity is unmatched when it comes to putting as many concepts, genres, and themes in a blender, spinning them up, and pouring it all out into a beautiful cocktail. As ‘The Shape Of Water’ unfolds, it often becomes a 50’s science fiction throwback, a French noir, even a commentary on today’s society. Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, and Octavia Spencer all dominate during their respective screen time.
About the film: In a 1960s research facility, a mute janitor forms a relationship with an aquatic creature.
Hawkins, playing the mute lab custodian Elisa, is up for the Golden Globe for BEST ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA, and rightfully so. Her and Jenkins have a powerful scene of desperation where she is pleading with Jenkins in sign language, and the forcible beats of the conversation will linger in your mind for days. The cast compliments each other very well; Octavia Spencer as Zelda, Elisa’s friend and coworker, stands toe-to-toe with Michael Shannon, the villainous Richard Strickland, whose insanity knows no bounds.
The screenplay from del Toro, and the incredibly succinct vision he employs in every nook and cranny of the film, make even side characters interesting. Everyone is fleshed out with just a hint of mystery, and it’s the sort of mystery that builds a tapestry of intrigue all around our central plot.
Del Toro also takes ‘The Shape Of Water’ to surprisingly heightened levels of intensity with how jarring things can play out. Certain aspects of the film get under your skin and make you feel uncomfortable, and it just so happens to coincide with the director’s subtle jabs at 2017. We feel so far removed from the 1962 period, technology-wise, but how far removed are we socially?
Before we go, can we just talk about monsters and how well del Toro is at crafting them? Doug Jones’s Amphibian Man looks spectacular, beautifully textured with vibrant colors and fluid moving parts from his eyelids to his scales. Del Toro puts his special-effects department, his art department, and his team of set designers through the ringer to help him create this world, and they all respond with some of the best work of their careers.