The Shape Of Water Review
Review by Owen Herman
Guillermo del Toro’s multi Oscar winning fairy tale is not exactly a traditional Oscar movie. It tales the story of a romance between a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) and a creature best described as a fish-man (Doug Jones). The film is not the easiest to describe or recommend as its basic description can make it sound almost silly and certainly not profound in any way. However, it is through this odd fantasy premise that Guillermo del Toro has created a beautiful, moving, and inspirational piece of cinema that is fully deserving of the highest Academy Award.
As with all his films, the director uses fantasy as a metaphor for both the best and worst parts of real life. As well as the message about finding love with someone who sees you for who you really are and what you offer, there is also a running theme of kindness in the face of bigotry and hatred. The 1960s setting allows for exploration of many social issues and the film makes full use of it. The supporting cast of Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer are all exceptional. Jenkins in particular gives an incredibly moving performance as a lonely gay man attempting to fight off the ageing process. Michael Shannon also shines, but for the opposite reasons, as the terrifying government agent whose unnerving confidence hides deep insecurity.
The influence of classic films is very clear to see. The cinematography, the locations, and even the score all create a lavish cinematic atmosphere. There were plans originally to shoot the film in black and white to create more of a classic feel. Although it would have looked beautiful, filming it in colour makes one late scene particularly brilliant.
It is this late scene which best sums up The Shape of Water. During my second viewing of the film I paid attention to the audience when this unique moment arrived. I could feel about half the audience completely going with it, and the other half taking against it. It is purely down to the individual and their personal preferences and feelings. The film’s odd and slightly silly premise is certainly not for everyone, but if you do happen embrace it then it reveals a wonderfully moving tale of romance and kindness in the face of hatred that, despite its setting and fantasy elements, feels particularly relevant in the modern day.