Guillermo del Toro has put his unique stamp on a wide array of movies, from the serious Pan’s Labyrinth to the wildly entertaining Pacific Rim. But he claims that everything he has made so far led him to his latest film – The Shape of Water.
It’s described as a 21st century fairy tale set in the mid-20th century. The Shape of Water takes place in and out of a 1960s government research facility in the midst of the Cold War. The story follows a mute janitor, Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins), as she discovers and forms a deep relationship with an aquatic creature obtained by the government for space research.
"I left there being rather astonished by the whole thing. It could be my favorite movie of 2017," says film contributor and arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, Dave Luhrssen. "A perfectly paced movie for a change."
Luhrssen is not alone in his critical praise for the film. The Shape of Water has a score of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Although there are consistent themes throughout del Toro's movies, his most recent production puts a twist on, and plays tribute to, old monster movies, Old Hollywood, outsiders, and love. "You can divide his body of work into the entertainment category and the art category," Luhrssen says. "You can delve very deeply into the meaning of everything in practically every frame of the movie - the meaning of water, the meaning of eggs, a sense of constructing a fantasy world - there's a whole lot to see and think about."
In addition to del Toro's visual imagery that make an old run down apartment look like a romantic underwater world, the actors in the film add the perfect support to the whimsical, yet brutal reality they face, he says.
Luhrssen commends Doug Jones, or Amphibian Man, in particular. "It's quite an extraordinary performance...as far as expressing something very profound through a cumbersome costume. It's a remarkable achievement - far better than a computer generated hologram of some kind that you normally see in films nowadays."
Sally Hawkins, who stars as Elisa, also delivers a spectacular performance as a mute character. "(Hawkins) comes in as an extremely well trained and emotionally proficient actor, del Toro probably couldn't have chosen a better person for this part." Her role proves that you don't necessarily need good spoken dialogue to show great emotion and subtle characteristics, he adds.
The Shape of Water also stars Michael Shannon as the government "bad guy," Richard Jenkins as Elisa's loving outsider neighbor Giles, and Octavia Spencer as Elisa's co-worker and friend Zelda Fuller. All of the actors were specifically chosen by del Toro for the roles, and with good reason, Luhrssen says. "The character's in del Toro's movies don't just have faces - they have eyes. I think that the eyes of the characters communicate a great deal."
If you're still on the fence as to whether to see a movie about a romance between a human and amphibious creature, Luhrseen recommends having an open mind and to not over simplify and categorize it into a Disney fairytale.
"Think of it as a (real Brother's Grimm) fairytale, where savage brutal things would occur as well as great signs of humanity and initiative for overcoming obstacles."