A wonderful amalgamation of sumptuous production design, lush camerawork, composed direction & excellent lead performance, The Shape of Water continues Guillermo del Toro’s fascination with monsters and is an unconventional story of love that’s pure, perceptive & poetic.
Set in 1960s America during the Cold War, The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute woman who works at a top secret facility as a janitor where she encounters a captured humanoid amphibian creature, with whom she forms a unique bond & later helps him escape from his captivity.
Co-written & directed by Guillermo del Toro (best known for The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth & Crimson Peak), of all the films that I’ve seen from the notable filmmaker, The Shape of Water is the weakest. Nothing about it is terrible actually but there is nothing about it that’s memorable either.
It’s a typical love story between atypical characters that’s crafted with affection, told with tenderness & decorated with splendid set pieces. There is a warmth to their blossoming romance at first but it becomes monotonous during the second half. That dance scene in particular is absolutely cringeworthy.
There isn’t much to complain in the technical department though. The set pieces in Guillermo del Toro films are usually so finely detailed & refined that much of it is often mistaken for computer generated imagery. Brilliantly utilising the shades of green, Cinematography give its images a luminous quality & fairy tale vibe.
Editing calmly directs its different subplots towards the same outcome but pacing is a bit on the slow side, plus there are moments that could have used a few trims. Alexandre Desplat’s score resonates a tenderness of its own with its serene tracks though the songs (both original & incorporated) fail to uplift the whole narrative.
Coming to the performances, The Shape of Water packs a reliable cast amongst whom Sally Hawkins impress the most in what’s a silent rendition that’s packed with sincere emotions. Doug Jones adds yet another non-human character to his work collection while Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg & Michael Shannon provide good support in their respective roles.
On an overall scale, The Shape of Water is beautiful to look at and makes excellent use of the director’s trademarks but it definitely isn’t one of del Toro’s finest films. The subplots are more interesting than the main story at hand here, but Hawkins does well to keep us invested in her character’s journey to an extent. In short, The Shape of Water is an above average creature feature wrapped in a pretty package.