A Breathtakingly Beautiful Film
At its very basic form, The Shape Of Water is a modern retelling of Beauty And The Beast with a slight twist. This dark, fantastical, romantic tale is wonderfully told with deep, thematic and symbolic messages running throughout the narrative. The visuals are breathtaking, the creature immersive and all of this told through a slightly surreal, almost Bioshock-esque lens of 1950s America. Boasting some great acting performances and a 2 hour run time that seems to slip by, The Shape Of Water is one of the best films released this year and deserves its critical acclaim.
As mentioned briefly before, The Shape Of Water is basically a modern retelling of Beauty And The Beast with a sprinkling of Director Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical setting and deep symbology accompanying the narrative. When a creature is captured in a secret government facility, one of the janitors Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) befriends him and what transpires is a beautifully told story of love transcending language and traditional conventions. Along for the ride is Elisa’s opinionated friend Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer) and ruthless government official Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) who’s hell bent on destroying the creature and using it to gain a military advantage over the soviets during the imminent threat of The Cold War. Tiny pockets of humour, drama and bursts of violence are used to good effect here although at times it feels in danger of overpowering the narrative through the 2 hour story.
Unlike other Del Toro films, the setting is grounded in realism rather than fantasy, other world places and the romance might irk those going into this expecting something closer to horror. If you can go into The Shape Of Water with an open mind and no preconceptions on what you think the film might be to avoid disappointment, this dark fantasy, romantic film is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Some common criticisms to the film seem to be around the misplaced musical number and bursts of singing and music that crop up throughout the run time. Although it could be argued this is a nod toward Oscar baiting, it’s worth remembering that the entire premise of the plot is around Elisa and the creature connecting on a spiritual level with music their relatable common ground. Coupled with Elisa’s inability to speak, the musical number make sense in the context of the film. Its a minor point but one that’s important to mention given the crucial impact this has on the film’s narrative.
Thematically, The Shape Of Water is outstanding. Behind the big themes of love and salvation, ideas around acceptance, racism, gender inequality and what it truly means to be a monster are all explored. Some subtle, others less so but all have a decent amount of care put into them to prevent it from overpowering the narrative. It’s worth mentioning here too that the cinematography and lighting is outstanding. The soundtrack and visuals work harmoniously together and there’s a touch of poetry to each scene, a distinct rhythm that infuses each note and scene of the film. It’s great stuff to watch and plays out effortlessly on the big screen.
It’s hard to fault The Shape Of Water and even after all these years, Guillermo Del Toro can still produce the goods and deliver an outstanding film. Whilst The Shape Of Water isn’t quite amazing enough to reach the status of masterpiece, it’s very close to doing so. The 2 hour journey oozes a poetic artistry and although many elements of The Shape Of Water feel like they’ve been borrowed from other films, there’s enough originality here to warrant the well deserved praise for this wonderful story of love and salvation. The Shape Of Water is simply a beautiful film that effortlessly tells a great story with visual flair and artistry throughout.
Verdict - 9.5/10