I am a fan of Guillermo del Toro and his body of work which includes “Mimic”, “Hellboy”, “Blade II”, “Pacific Rim”, and more. His last film, “Crimson Peak” was the first time I was generally disappointed by the director. Yes, it’s a stunning looking film, but I found it to be an utter bore. Del Toro is back with his creature-feature romance, “The Shape of Water” and it is not only visually striking, but features one of this year’s best performances. Sally Hawkins is just wonderful.
Set in 1960’s Baltimore, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) lives a pretty simple life. She lives alone but spends quite a bit of time with her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins). Because Elisa is a mute, she uses sign language. Giles as well as her friend and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are the only two people in Elisa’s life that know how to communicate with her. That all changes when Elisa forms a bond with an amphibian man (Doug Jones) that seems to understand her.
The creature that Zelda has grown to care for is being tortured by the sadistic Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), who sees it as nothing more than a wild animal that they can use for military gain. Obviously, Zelda wants to free her new friend and help get him back into the sea. This means she will need the help of her friends, who are understandably reluctant.
Andy Serkis may be the king of motion capture, but Doug Jones is the king of playing a practical effects creature. What I found very interesting was how much Doug Jones’ Amphibian creature in “The Shape of Water” looks like his Abe Sapien character in the “Hellboy” films. They may look related but the two couldn’t be any more different. For one, this new creature likes fresh hard-boiled eggs and Abe was fond of spoiled hard-boiled eggs. Much like with Hawkins performance, Jones’ is also dialogue free. The scenes between the two are just magical. As great as the two leads are, Jenkins, Shannon, and Spencer all bring their A Game. I also found Michael Stuhlbarg to be quite good as the scientist with his own agenda.
Admittedly, “The Shape of Water” moves along pretty slowly but that’s ok because this is a true romance and love can’t be rushed. It could be quite easy for “The Shape of Water” to get lost in the multiplexes this season with the new “Star Wars” hitting theaters and tons more arriving next week. Hopefully people take a chance on this so studios keep backing Del Toro’s visons.
By: Marc Ferman