GAVIN MILLER reviews Oscar-nominated The Shape of Water
It’s going to be a close race for that Best Film gong at the Oscars – with the 13-time nominated The Shape of Water neck-and-neck with Three Billboards.
And deservedly so, as they’re both fantastic films in their own right – definitely the best two films of the year so far – with very little to choose between them.
Visionary filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) should definitely pick up the Best Director award – with his sublime fingerprints all over this lusciously-rendered world – with this romantic fantasy adventure that conjures up something that little bit different.
And when Del Toro’s involved, you’re guaranteed two things: that it will look amazing, and will have ingenuity in waves. And this undoubtedly has both.
At a top-secret Cold War era-set (circa 1963) research facility, lonely mute janitor Elisa (Oscar-nominated for Best Actress Sally Hawkins) forms a unique relationship with an other-worldly – but deemed to be a species from the Amazon by powers-that-be – amphibious creature (played by Doug Jones, who has previous in a similar role with Del Toro’s Hellboy) that is being held in captivity.
Her only friends in the world are down-on-his-luck artist Giles (Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actor Richard Jenkins), and work colleague, and fellow janitor Zelda (Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer), until her daily routine of ‘pleasuring’ herself and taking hard-boiled eggs for lunch is upended when she forms a bond with this slimy being through sign-language and music.
But behind the scenes there are things afoot that are above her pay grade, with security head Richard Strickland (Man of Steel’s Michael Shannon) looking to dispose of the creature, with the Soviet Union looking to steal the amphibian for research via Michael Stuhlbarg’s (Boardwalk Empire) agent serenading as an American doctor.
And what transpires is a sensationally-acted and beautifully-crafted tale of love, loneliness and a time when the world was political correctness gone wrong – headlined by Hawkins’ (Paddington) tremendous rounded performance.
The sad thing for her is that Frances McDormand’s turn in Three Billboards is probably even better – and she is just about a ‘lock’ for Best Actress – and may even pip The Shape of Water to Best Picture too.
That’s because, despite Water’s many noteworthy triumphs, it probably isn’t quite as accessible to the casual cinema-goer as Billboards, by being a bit ‘odd’. That’s the only minus point to the movie. Some people may not get it.
But for those of us who do, it’s easy to swim in Del Toro’s gloriously-devised cinematic ocean.
Rating: 4/5 Gavin Miller
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