Film Review: The Shape of Water

In association with the GFT

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Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most visionary minds out there, in part due to his delightful obsession with monsters. His latest feature, The Shape of Water, sees his (and co-writer Vanessa Taylor’s) take on a beauty and the beast plotline. This is a simple premise that, through splendid craftsmanship, results in his best film since Pan’s Labyrinth.

Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman, Eliza, who works as a cleaner in a government facility in the 1960s. She, like all the other characters, feels a lack of fulfilment in her life. That is until government agents bring in a strange humanoid sea creature and keep it captive in the facility. As time passes, Eliza and the creature form an emotional connection through sign language, and the consequences of this connection are explored further as the film progresses.

Del Toro has always been masterful with visuals and The Shape of Water continues to showcase his prowess in this field. The film utilises murky renditions of colour, from the red of Eliza’s clothes to the greenish blue of the water, and yet still somehow looks gorgeous. The imagination leaps off the screen and stuns us in its visceral beauty, both when the film is sensational or gory. The visuals compliment the film’s plot and central themes, the most predominant of which being the lack of fulfilment in one’s life and how one chooses to fill that void. This is immaculate, euphoric direction on the part of Del Toro.

The film is enchantingly engaging via these themes and visuals, but also serves as a vehicle for tremendous acting. The entire main body of the cast, from Richard Jenkins’ failing artist to Michael Stuhlberg’s conflicted scientist, alongside Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer, give award-worthy performances. However it is Sally Hawkins who shines brightest, able to express so much emotion with no dialogue. She steals every scene she is in, in an already stunningly captivating spectacle.

At times the film can feel rushed and tonally a bit imbalanced, as it juggles laughs and romance with horror and gore. It could’ve perhaps benefitted from one more scene between Eliza and the monster early on to establish a firmer relationship between the two. Otherwise, this is an astonishing cinematic work, one that boasts tremendous performances, visuals that are as gorgeous as they are terrifying, and that pure, irresistible imagination that only Del Toro could demonstrate.

[Calum Cooper – @CalumTheFilmGuy

This film will screen at the GFT until the 15th of March. Tickets are available here.

The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here


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