The Phoenix

The Shape of Water: Del Toro returns with stunning visuals and excellent writing

Friday, 11:15 am. I walked to the theater and purchased tickets for The Shape of Water, the newest film from the acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, best known for his fantasy films such as Pan’s Labyrinth

Walking into the theater, I was very excited because I knew little about the film, having avoided all of the trailers and commentary leading up to its release. The movie follows Eliza (Sally Hawkins), a lonely mute who works as a janitor in a government facility where she meets an unusual fish creature.

As soon as the movie began, I noticed the stunning visuals. Del Toro is a master of creating beautiful and artistic films (his work recently was given a large-scale exhibition at the Minnesota Institute of Art) and this may be his best looking movie yet. The colors jump off the screen and the lighting and production design are captivating. I absolutely loved how the movie used the colors blue and green, having them appear in every scene.

While watching, I was drawn in by Micheal Shannon (Nocturnal Animals) in his role as Strickland, the main antagonist of the film. Shannon is so intimidating that he dominates every scene in which he appears. Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) was surprisingly hilarious as a friend of Eliza.

Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) is incredible as Eliza. She demonstrates a wide range of emotions without uttering a single line of dialogue. Her ability to convey emotions through facial expressions alone is extremely commendable. Her performance is so impressive it will likely be a notable topic this Oscar season.

However, the character I liked the most was the Amphibian Man or “The Asset”. Del Toro’s writing creates sympathy for the creature, and the movie implies he may have more humanity than many of the humans. Del Toro’s greatest coup, possibly, was making the relationship between Eliza and the creature feel plausible.

Del Toro has set persistently high expectations, but as the credits rolled, I was very happy with the journey I’d been taken on by The Shape of Water.  The performances were tremendous, especially from Hawkins and Shannon. The direction, cinematography, and music perfectly complemented the writing. The Shape of Water felt like an adult fairytale that balanced multiple tones, which is no easy feat.

Score 8/10

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