Movie Review: The Shape of Water

Best picture, best direction, best original music score and best production design! Guillermo del Toro’s film has been the strong winner of the 90th Academy Awards. Congratulations!

The Shape of Water: Of course, it’s a beautiful paradox to point out the impossibility of describing the contour of the imprecise by nature as is love, desire… From the title, the director Guillermo del Toro surrounds the spectator in his visual metaphor: a beautiful fairy tale in which you’ll see a chromatic palette always going back to blue and green tones and an amazing soundtrack composed by Alexandre Desplat.

The Shape of Water takes place in the Cold War, when the military and space race is at its peak. Eliza (a great Sally Hawkins) is a mute cleaning employee who works in a government facility that hides some secret laboratories. Her life changes completely when she discovers an enigmatic creature: an amphibious man of unique qualities who lives locked up and is the victim of various experiments. As you can see, everything until this point has the stamp of this particular director.

Eliza then begins to feel sympathy for this strange creature and an unusual connection takes place between the two. But the real world is not a safe place for a man of these characteristics.

In this movie the director Guillermo del Toro synthesises the thoughts and values that are present throughout his filmography: there is a devastating criticism of racism, homophobia and intolerance towards people who are different. He even turns around the “American way of life”: seemingly happy cardboard-stone families that hide a deep dissatisfaction in their core. None of this is trivial, it’s almost like a reaction to the current affairs and live as we know it. Kind of a time bomb that wants to blow up a system of empty values that, it seems, wants to return.

The interesting thing is that these critical aspects work at a secondary level. Everything in the film oozes a lyricism reminiscent of classics such as Amelie, but seasoned with a background that pays homage to a lot of B-series movies of the 40s and 50s.

We are before a story in which the fantastic and romantic combine with a completely adult background. There is in Eliza something like a desire for emancipation from reality: an intrinsic need to be part of the fantasy world that awaits her.

The cast is impeccable with a fragile but brave heroine, a plot centred on the Russian counterintelligence, a villain who stands as a Frankenstein creature like a real monster of fiction and a varied cast in which there is no weak acting: Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Jenkins, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer.

Staging is the other great winning feature of a movie that has passages that elevate you from the armchair, it is a great pleasure in terms of rhythm and narrative. The artistic direction makes the set one more character in the story: that steampunk touch of the laboratories contrasts with the almost traditional vision of American families but we also have that wonderful study of Eliza’s roommate filled with sketches, piled up books and artistic pieces.

In all Guillermo del Toro’s films there is a taste and a mime for the overwhelming details, but the truth is that in The Shape of Water there is something more personal and intimate about the filmmaker: a certain projection in the main character that makes the film a real delight and his Oscar a very, very deserved award.

Long live the fantastic genre! It doesn’t only allow us to dream but also makes us reflect on our own nature. What a beautiful and exciting journey the filmmaker offers us from his R-rating, with the courage of those ones who are not afraid to appear naked (even though he is on the other side of the camera) to show us what he has inside. Check out the trailer below, you won’t regret going to the cinema!

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