Film Review: The Shape of Water – 7.5/10

‘He’s a wild creature. We can’t ask him to be anything else…’

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Guillermo del Toro’s latest film has been nominated for a joint record 13 Oscars. I can’t for the life of me figure out why…

Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute janitor who works at a top secret research facility in an alternative version of the 1960s. With the help of her friend and colleague Zelda (Octavia Spencer) she forges an unlikely relationship with an amphibian creature (Doug Jones), all the while under the watchful eye of her psychotic boss Strickland (Michael Shannon).

The Shape of Water has lots going for it. It is visually striking, the washed out blues and greens and constant rainfall giving the impression that everything is under water. Sally Hawkins is a delight from start to finish and while Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon don’t have to stray far from roles they have played in the past, they are still commanding and charismatic performers. Richard Jenkins is also excellent as the kindly Giles, possessing a warmth and comic timing that allows Hawkins to express herself without using her voice.

The problem that arises is that, to be honest, parts of this film just feel a little daft. Pan’s Labryinth also married the fantastical with a realist backdrop, but never in a way that disengaged its audience. It’s debatable as to whether The Shape of Water is ever as effective as that masterpiece.

I get the feeling that this is supposed to be high stakes cinema but I never really bought into the unconventional love story at the films core, and while I suppose some will connect to this film more than I did, I never really felt motivated to invest myself in this story. That might have been because I was quite hungry throughout watching it though and this tends to throw my emotional radar off balance…

All in all, a film that I mostly enjoyed, but one that I will never watch again. 13 Oscar noms? Nope. Not for me.

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