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