A sweet Guillermo fable through and through, I agree 100% that it’s definitely his best film since Pan’s Labyrinth — one of his smaller-scale creations that aims above and beyond the fanboy realm. Shape is a sci-fi period thing, a trans-species love story, a swoony romantic fantasy and an E.T.-like tale about a merging of disparate hearts and souls.
It also accommodates a darkly paranoid story about the forces of absolute badness looking to dissect and destroy an exotic life form. It’s a little stiff and overbearing at times, but generally mature and tender-hearted and ten times better than Okja, which used a similar storyline.
Sally Hawkins in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water.
This is an adult fantasy piece full of heartache and swoony feelings, lusciously and exactingly composed, painted with early ’60s period detail and production design to die for. A movie completely dominated and in fact saturated with its Guillermo-ness.
I saw Shape late last night. The screening began at 11:20 pm and ended two hours later, and I was 100% alert and wide-eyed start to finish. This is what good movies do — they wake you up and keep you in a state of anticipation until the closing credits. Oh, and the headline I went with three days ago after the first Venice showing — Douglas Sirk’s Creature From The Love Lagoon — still stands.
Set in 1962 Baltimore, The Shape of Water is about a current that quickly develops between Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute and lonely but sensually attuned dreamer who works as a cleaning woman inside a government-run scientific laboratory, and a gentle, large-eyed aqua-creature with God-like healing powers (Doug Jones) who’s recently been captured in South America and brought to the lab for study and eventual dissection.
There are serious obstructions to their love affair, of course, but you knew that going in.