Movie Review: The Shape Of Water Is A Hypnotic Fairy Tale For Grown-ups

It's up for 13 Oscars next month.

The Shape of Water (M18) 

Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins 

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Mexican visionary Guillermo del Toro’s Cold War-era creature feature is a bizarre love story between a mute janitor at a classified research facility (Sally Hawkins, amazing beyond words) and a mysterious sea ogre in captivity (del Toro regular Doug Jones in a scaly suit that looks like a distant cousin of Abraham Sapien from Hellboy). But this interspecies romance is threatened by another monster: a brutal G-man (Michael Shannon, unnervingly brilliant) who loves candies as much as he loves torturing his prisoner with a cattle prod.

Like del Toro’s 2006 masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, is a hypnotic, haunting, and visually dense (almost everything coated in green) fairy tale for grown-ups. It owes its DNA to King Kong, Beauty and the Beast, and Creature from the Black Lagoon, a key influence in the director’s childhood; and has violence, colourful language, and ahem, sexy stuff, including a few scenes involving an egg-timer.       

So if you’re new to del Toro, the juxtaposition between these edgy elements and the wondrous childlike aura can be a bit unsettling. For fans, however, The Shape of Water, isn’t something unexpected from him: He has an eternal obsession with monsters. Think of the movie, up for 13 Oscars (including Best Picture) next month, as his ‘greatest hits’ album: a collection of old hits — some remastered, some re-recorded — plus a few new tunes (like a surreal Busby Berkeley dance musical number!).                  

And it rocks. (***1/2)

Photo: 20th Century Fox

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