The Shape Of Water (2017)

An Adult Fairytale For Our Time.

At once both dark and sorrowful this exquisitely made masterpeice is also at its core an uncynical romance that seems so essential now in our time. Set in Cold War 60s Baltimore, the film follows the journey of a lonely mute cleaning woman, as she falls in love with a captured sea monster that she encounters while cleaning a secret US government facility. At first the story may seem familiar as its master director Guillermo Del Toro creates a pastiche of many classic fairytales mixed with a homage to cinema in particular the post WW2 B monster movie. And yet as the film goes on its weirdness, singular beauty, and style makes it quiet unlike any film of its genre I have ever seen. Sure Beauty and the Beast has a romance between a woman and a beast, yet The Shape Of Water, in which the heroine is a mute and her love interest a muscular sea man, creates images and a story that will stand the test of time for their sheer uniqueness. A certain waltz old Hollywood fantasy scene particularly springs to mind as pure cinema. It is the ultimate postmodern Fairytale movie, a pastiche of genres, references and tributes. Let this sink in, the heros of this film include: a mute cleaning lady, an older artist gay man, an African American cleaning lady, a Russian scientist spy and a muscular sea monster man all classically marginalised, unrepresented or vilified by Hollywood. The villains include: a 5 Star US general and a top US government misogynistic heterosexual man, classically the hero. The main villain, played with manic intensity by Michael Shannon in many ways, represents the Trump man, might is right doctrine, with a deep hatred of the unknown and different. The fantasy love story that comes out of these eclectic characters is an impassioned plea for beauty, passion and the wonder of the strange or different. The best film Guillermo Del Toro has made since one of my all time favourite films Pans Laybrinth, Del Toro once again shows his affinity and love of ‘monsters’, subverting our notion of what is truly monstrous. We are all ‘monsters’ in our own weird way and the real monsters sometimes are the ones society glorifies. The scene that most made me cry involved the protagonist, play by Sally Hawkins in one of the best performances of the year, makes an impassioned monoglogue using only her face and sign language to speak about how similar she is to the ‘monster’ with her perceived disability. We are all Sally Hawkins in that moment. She reminds us of the fierce intensity of Silent movies when they had only their faces to make us believe. There’s isn’t a note wrong in this film. Every department from the art direction, Cinematography, script, to the production design and direction all deserve their historic 13 oscar nominations. But what really carries the film is the sensation cast particularly Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer who create characters that within moments you love. We need this film now more than ever in our at times cynical and ugly world. A love letter to old Hollywood, a tribute to sci fi B movies but above all else an adult Fairytale romance that makes you fall in love with the unlikeliest of beings. Pure cinema, one of the best films of 2017. 10/10

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