Rated: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language Reviewed by: Jim Release date: December 1, 2017 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Master storyteller and director Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, Hellboy, Pacific Rim, The Devil Backbone among his diversely creative oeuvre) trusts in his unhurried ethereal fairytale with stylish vigor.
A romantic, piquant, as well as poetic fable is made for discerning adults to relish in easily his finest entry since Pan's Labyrinth. With such a refined, detailed production amplified by Alexandre Desplat's original cascading score alongside symphonious sounds. The beauty extends to its art direction, design, and lensing, the latter lushly rendered from Dan Lauten.
The Shape of Water calls into play iconic horror tropes and sights, as the visionary filmmaker upends the motifs and atmosphere of genre yesteryear notables.
Circa 1962 with Cold War America as the backdrop a lonely young woman discovers her 'soul mate' in a very peculiar situation. Characters here aren't ones usually front and center in what came from studio releases back in the day.
A clandestine Baltimore high-security government research center is where Sally Hawkins's mute, closeted Elisa Esposito toils as a nocturnal cleaning person. Her colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer of Hidden Figures) is part of her unusual find. And, also in her orbit is a lonely gay neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), as well as a kind of 'two-faced' scientist, Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg of Call Me By Your Name).
Michael Shannon puts a beastly bite into facility security boss Strickland. This guy knows what to say about many a topic, including religion, the ideal suburbanite with a swank automobile. But, he isn't really very congenial at all.
So, it's up to del Toro's oft (made-up) collaborator/go-to-guy in Doug Jones to be special for Elisa as a sort of Creature From The Black Lagoon instead of his captors with Soviet spies on the fringe. Their connection is initially forged with signing — learning of "music" and "egg". And, from there how foundations and candor emerge as scenes effectively unfold organically. Which turns out to be quite bracing given the fact that del Toro makes it inviting to go down his 'rabbit hole' as easy as a dryer screen absorbs lint.
The cast assembled is confidently up to the task of the amazing auteur with Spencer and Jenkins offering functional, formidable turns in their secondary roles. The Shape of Water, moreover, gets its oddly fascinating figure from the wonderfully nuanced Hawkins (so fine and different in films like Happy-Go-Lucky and Maudie opposite Ethan Hawke) who makes Elisa worthy of special interest in an advocacy of tending to a dark, simmering beauty.
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