It’s not very usual having fantasy or sci-fi related pictures nominated for the Best Picture award in the Oscars. However, Guillermo Del Toro has achieved to be there (and 12 other categories too, including Achievement in Directing and Original Screenplay) with The Shape of Water, a fable about a top-secret scientific discovery set in the early 1960s.
So I usually begin by writing a short, spoiler-free synopsis of the film’s plot. However, this time around I’ll let you know nothing, because I strongly believe that every single part of the story is best enjoyed by discovering it the way Del Toro presents it. This may sound exaggerated due to the mostly simple storyline the film boasts, but those who know the director’s previous work and his aspirations at storytelling will surely be spoiled as the message he wants to convey with The Shape of Water will come as no surprise.
Let’s start with that, with the way Del Toro makes the meaning behind the movie transcend. He has created a very powerful narrative in this film, having taking care of every possible variable. Characters are amazingly written, and they all evolve as the story arcs progress. The director also makes an extensive use of visual elements to tell their stories, and this really enhances the audience’s experience. Cinematography greatly benefits the narrative, since Dan Laustsen has done a mind-blowing job with light and color. Probably one of my favorite features of this film was its editing, which I think it’s crisp, clean and compelling.
Score was written by the very talented Alexandre Desplat, who had to work with a myriad of instruments to achieve the deep tunes he wanted to create. The result is amazing, a great fit to both the story and visuals of the film. I’m constantly listening to the album, as the dazzling and hypnotic pieces are a welcome addition to my daily commutes.
The Shape of Water is an incredible acted movie, too. Sally Hawkins does an amazing job at portraying Elisa, the main character, which is a complex role packed with subtleties and emotionally challenging scenes. Her character’s sidekicks are played by Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer, and both of them are incredible in their roles. The same thing can be said about the movie’s main antagonist, since Michael Shannon delivers one of the most compelling performances of his career, maybe on a par with his outstanding job in Nocturnal Animals.
Guillermo Del Toro loves his job. He is passionate about cinema, and that really shows in The Shape of Water, as the whole picture breathes enthusiasm throughout its runtime. It’s personal, dramatic, relatable and much, much more. Don’t let its fantastic elements fool you, as behind that layer there’s tons of human emotion. It has taken a long time for this movie to be made, for everything to click into place. But Del Toro’s dream is now a reality, and the staggering effort has probably been well worth it, as this is a genuinely timeless piece of filmmaking and visual poetry. 9/10
P.S. Now will you just listen to him for one damn minute?