The Shape of Water: LFF Film Review

Guillermo del Toro‘s latest movie The Shape of Water received rave reviews after its debut at the Venice Film Festival and still has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes so my expectations were pretty high – and it still managed to exceed them.

Sally Hawkins is Elisa, who works night shifts cleaning with Zelda (Octavia Spencer) in a government laboratory in Baltimore. One night they witness “an asset”, an unknown aquatic creature, being brought in for experimentation. Elisa develops a bond with the creature and learns to communicate with it. However, Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) wants to kill the asset to the government can learn from it, whereas scientist Dr. Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants to keep it alive, but he has pressure from an outside agency.

I just loved everything about it. The way it looked, the way it sounded, the cast, the story. They were all on top form and I can’t fault it at all. It is a beautiful love story that was simply a delight to watch. I knew I’d like it in the first five minutes following a gorgeous underwater sequence and another showing Elisa’s morning masturbation session, and it never let me down from there.

Hawkins is always spectacular but she really shines as the mute Elisa, while the close second is Richard Jenkins as her neighbour and best friend Giles. He’s so bloody lovely I wanted to give him a hug and their little tap dance moment really brightened my day. The rest are also great from Spencer as the straight-talking Zelda, who always has Elisa’s back, Shannon, a mean and dirty villain, to Stuhlbarg, who adds some extra heart as the moral compass within the science team.

The score was wonderful – I want to listen to it again – and the period ’60s setting was gorgeous. The film was funnier than I expected but also more sexual and more violent/gruesome that I anticipated (I looked away from the screen twice!) The story is beautiful and I was enthralled by it entirely. Do yourself a favour and go see it.

Showing as part of the BFI London Film Festival. Set for release in February 2018. 

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