Ah, what a treat it is to go into a movie theater and see a lovely film! The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s newest fairytale, is just lovely in every way. From the richness of the world to the camera work to the beautiful love story, everything about this movie is crafted for maximum audience enjoyment, without being overly sentimental or playing down to our base needs.
Guillermo’s biggest strength is that his movies are contained in such thoroughly rich worlds and he is such a good storyteller that he doesn’t need to go out of his way to make his movies work. There’s nothing in The Shape of Water that’s overly explanatory or made excuse for, this is a story about a mute woman (Sally Hawkins) who works at a government facility and falls in love with a fish creature (Doug Jones), much to the chagrin of her friends (Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer) and the man who is in charge of the operation (Michael Shannon).
The movie is so effortless with it’s plot and story and that is majorly because of how del Toro filmed the project. It’s very reminiscent of classical films in that it’s stagey but without feeling stuck. The camera is always moving, there’s never a static shot, and he employs the use of cranes a lot in this project. It gives The Shape of Water a buoyancy, that every other element of the film is able to latch onto and helps make one of the most stunning sequences of the year really sing.
Guillermo’s direction is matched with his actor’s attention to detail and strong characterizations. Sally Hawkins performance as Elisa is really amazing once you realize she’s been tasked to play the role of the princess, the cleaning lady, AND the audience cipher, with whom we go through the whole story with. She easily strikes the balance between the various modes that the movie needs her to be in. Helping her in this quest are Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, as the gay man next door and her fellow cleaning lady, respectively. Both of these actors are in stock characters but thanks to their warmth and acting ability, they elevate these roles. Michael Shannon also fully inhabits his role as the villain, but also gives you some glimpses at what makes him the way he is.
The MVP of this movie though might be Alexandre Desplat, the amazing composer who does a brilliant job here. The music captures different time periods, moods, musical styles, and whistling…all to a tremendous effect. Everything in this movie is moving in conjunction with each other and it’s a movie you must see this year.