The Shape of Water (15)

Guillermo del Toro paints a whimsical and mesmerising tale full of love and drama with elements of horror interspersed.

Set in the midst of the Cold War we meet Elisa (Sally Hawkins). The mute cleaner works in a top secret science facility. The mission? To find a way to overcome the Russians.

One day an ‘asset’ is bought into the facility, one that could change the course of the Cold War. Elisa is intrigued and forms a unique bond with the amphibious creature.

What ensues is quite literally out of this world as we watch the two extraordinary creatures communicate without a sound. Unable to leave the secret classified experiment at the hands of the maniachal Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), Elisa concucts his daring escape plan.

She enlists the help of her two best friends Giles (Richard Jenkins) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Success is their only option. Failure means certain death.

The Shape of Water is an unconventional love story about acceptance and outsiders aligning to overcome evil. The common theme is that it’s our differences that make us special.

Resident Ruthless On Film reviewer Jordan Barrett said “Sometimes it’s the words that are unsaid that can be the most powerful.” That’s the beauty of this movie, in that the lack of words makes the emotional intimacy of Eliza’s relationships with the asset, Giles and Zelda stand out so much more.

The Shape of Water has been described as a triumph of storytelling but I have to disagree. While the main characters deserves the accolades they are receiving, there’s a reason why their costars aren’t enjoying the limelight.

Many of the movie’s characters are one dimensional. None more so than Shannon and Spencer. While their performances are strong, they are restricted by their stereotypical roles.

Some have said that it’s a remake of the 80’s Tom Hanks classic Splash but with the roles reversed and some other-worldy sex scenes. Then there’s the current dispute that claims that The Shape of Water is “obvioulsy derived” from the play Let Me Hear You Whisper.

There are two things I am sure of. Sally Hawkins deserves all the praise she’s receiving, and I will never be able to watch the bath scene in Paddington without blushing now.

The Shape of Water isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but at its heart it’s a tale of outsiders and all-consuming love.

This review was written ahead of it’s UK release as part of a Screen Unseen event at Odeon. The Shape of Water is out in UK cinemas on 14th February 2018.

By Ruth Walker

★★★☆☆

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