Hawkins and Spencer
I adored Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.
A child's nightmare fantasy set against the violence of the Spanish Civil war was a tour de force Adult fairy tale piece which still haunts me over a decade since I first saw it.
I always thought that nothing could quite beat it, and although I really wanted to love The Shape of water, Del Toro's revisit to the world of strange creatures and the flawed people that come in contact with them, wasn't quite as good as his first triumph....not quite.
I think we all know the story by now.
In a 1962 government research centre an amphibious humanoid creature is being studied and brutalised by special agent Strickland ( Michael Shannon) A mute and lonely domestic worker Elisia (Sally Hawkins ) secretly interacts with the creature , and a strange love affair starts between the two before the creature is ordered to be killed.
Helped by fellow cleaner Zelda ( Octavia Spencer) and closest gay best friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), Elisia then breaks the creature out of the facility with the violent Strickland in hot pursuit .
In anyone else's hands this might have been a Beauty and the Beast type fairy tale full of whimsy and sentimentality but typically del Toro has produced a dark, multilayered and strangely credible story about loneliness, damage and loss. Elisia, Giles and Zelda are the " water" of the title as they are damaged people mouldered by their lot just like water is shaped by the vessel it finds itself in. Elisia is mute and is defined by her silence, Giles is in his own words born at the wrong time and Zelda is trapped in an unhappy marriage and it is their varying interactions with the creature that sets them free of the confines of their lives.
Hawkins is truly wonderful and without saying a word is incredibly moving as a woman who has found love for the first time in her sad life. I have to say that the scene where she silently stands up to the psychopath Strickland with just one look is a revelation and incredibly moving all at the same time.
Jenkins , Spencer and the granite faced Shannon are equally impressive with Shannon echoing Sergi Lopez's brutal baddie performance from Labyrinth.
Del Toro does love his psychopath baddie , and Shannon is truly evil in this movie , so much so I had to look away at two of his more horrific moments !
The Shape Of Water is really worth the effort. It's magnificently atmospheric, and despite its oddness, strangely believable. It's moving , engaging and , I warn you, darkly shocking.
But I found it perhaps just half an hour too long.