Guillermo del Toro’s enchanting film The Shape of Water follows a similar theme to the fellow Oscar-nominated movie Call Me by Your Name directed by Luca Guadagnino. Both of these highly-acclaimed films adventure into a magical love story that explores the desire between two characters and their struggle to be together. Del Toro, director of the dark fantasy film Pans Labyrinth, does not fail in demonstrating his unique film style. Similar to his earlier films, The Shape of Water is an alluring, fairy-tale like film that depicts the monstrous, grotesque and uncanny through fresh eyes. However, unlike Pans Labyrinth, this film is a more light-hearted approach to the world of the supernatural.
Del Toro is known for his ability to portray monsters as human and humans as monsters and this film is no exception. The story is set in 1960s Baltimore and follows Elisa, played by Sally Hawkins, a mute, living above a classic cinema with her neighbouring companion Giles, played by Richard Jenkins. Working as a cleaner in a military facility, Elisa becomes acquainted with “the asset,” an amphibian creature discovered in South America who is contained in a tank for experimentation and testing. Michael Shannon plays Richard Strickland, a high-ranked government agent at the facility who detests the creature and seeks out to harm it. Elisa, on the other hand, perceives the creature as a wonder who she can uniquely connect with, protect and desire.
Del Toro’s cinematic world engulfs the viewer with feelings of enchantment, thrill and love and is drowned in a green-themed colour palette that seeks meaning in every frame. The Shape of Water is one of the best films of 2017 as it brings to its audience an unusual warmth that is rewarding to watch. The performances from each of the cast members are exquisite with Sally Hawkins creating a mesmerising and breathtaking portrayal of Elisa, limited to body language as a means of communicating her emotions. This fantasy film, however, is more than just a love story. The film raises the classic theme of appearance and reality seen in famous texts such as Frankenstein and The Elephant Man, suggesting that appearances can be misjudged and misconstrued. Although the film is not ground breaking, The Shape of Water is a beautifully shot, dreamlike tale about embracing the person that we are along with acknowledging and loving others for who they are as well.