The Shape of Water is the 10th feature film from Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.
Those familiar with his work already know they’re in for an unconventional tale; his last film 2015’s gothic romance Crimson Peak proved too scary for many romantics, whilst derided by horror fans as not being terrifying enough.
It is likely The Shape of Water – an adult fairytale about a mute cleaning lady and an amphibious fish-man captured in the Amazon – will also split audiences, although to avoid the most sumptuous motion picture to arrive in theatres in recent years would be to rob oneself of a true cinematic experience.
Taking place in Baltimore in 1962 at the height of the Cold War on a military base, a former soldier named Strickland (Michael Shannon) arrives with a new discovery “The Asset” (Doug Jones), a creature revered as a god by the Amazonian natives, with which – through examination – scientists hope to gain an advantage in the space race.
By contrast Elisa (Sally Hawkins – delivering a performance that deserves to take home Oscar gold) a night shift janitor and outsider in her own right, is drawn to the creature for reasons of her own, sensing that there is much more to this fish-man than even the scientists can see. To say any more about the plot would be to spoil what is to come.
With The Shape of Water del Toro has produced his finest film since Pan’s Labyrinth, beautifully lensed by Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen and played to perfection by a superb supporting cast.
Four and a half stars