Telluride 2017 “The Shape of Water” Review
The Shape of Water is a fantastical adult fairy tale created by the incomparable Guillermo del Toro. The story begins with a voiceover of a story of the princess without a voice. Eliza (Sally Hawkins) is a young mute woman working at a scientific facility as a cleaning woman. She lives a fairly common and scheduled life. She had no friends apart from her older neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins). One day, while at work there was an accident. She and her coworker/ friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer) were called into the lab to help clean the mess.
While there, Eliza comes in contact with the creature they are experimenting on and keeping in the lab. Her fascination and infatuation with the creature grow as they form a closer connection. She learns that the creature can communicate, understand language and loves music. Doctor Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), the lead scientist at the facility, knows the creature is special and hopes to keep it safe. Although he is the lead scientist, he must answer to the person in charge of the operation, the sadistic Mr. Strickland (Michael Shannon).
The Shape of Water is a mesmerizingly beautiful film from start to finish. Del Toro has such a distinct vision for his films and never disappoints on delivering a world so vibrant and stunning.The Shape of Water is probably one of his very best. Each part of the film is crafted meticulously. The design of the creature is magical, and each movement is majestic and lifelike.
The world that del Toro has created in The Shape of Water is set in the 1960s and features vibrant colors and the use of different music and clips of shows and films only enhance the wonder and magic behind the film. The score by Alexandre Desplat is an excellent addition to the film. It helps to solidify and further embed us in the dreamlike world. In the film, del Toro is fabulous with creating these realistic and deep characters. Each one of them has a backstory, motivation, and inspiration. We don’t get flat characters but rather glimpses of people we could imagine being in the world with us.
The cast really couldn’t be any more perfect. Sally Hawkins is marvelous as Eliza. Despite never saying a word, she carries the film with ease. The emotions and mannerisms she portrays in the film convey more emotions than we see from actors who have a speaking role. Her friend and co-worker played by Octavia Spencer is wonderful and provides a levity to the film. Michael Shannon is frightening as Strickland. His cold, sadistic demeanor sends chills down my spine. Michael Stuhlbarg as Doctor Hoffstetler is wonderful and plays the duality of his role so well. Richard Jenkins gives an outstanding performance as Giles. His support and friendship to Eliza is such a big part of this story and their chemistry when together is terrific.
Every aspect of The Shape of Water works together to create a memorable and fantastical world with rich characters and a classic story. Del Toro takes a fairy tale theme and makes it 100% for adults. The Shape of Water is visually spectacular and a gift to the world of cinema and a beautiful must-see treat for Del Toro fans.