Sally Hawkins is simply amazing in this well crafted fantasy love story from the always great Guillermo Del Toro. This film feels like what Creature from the Black Lagoon would have looked like if Douglas Sirk had directed it. Octavia Spencer is brilliant comic relief and Michael Shannon is at his psychotic best here and lets not forget the incredible Doug Jones as the creature.
Del Toro is probably the only director who can imagine fucking the creature from the black lagoon, so it's only natural that he can use it for a parallel with America's marginalized communities. He's better with theme than plotting, but SoW builds as a genre film that clearly comes from a singular mind—a mind that both loves luxurious old-fashioned craft and recognizes that the most pitiable villains are humans.
8/10. Del Toro reflects on the 50s B movie and 50s at large to create the subversive, romantic THE SHAPE OF WATER. The film is bold enough to be explicitly sexual--even if that sex happens to be between a mute woman and a scaly fish person. Sally Hawkins is a delight.
I liked it but I wasn't wowed which I'm coming to realize is how I often feel about Del Toro's work. It's a wonder to behold on screen, colour and theme are married beautifully. However, the black and white morality underserves Del Toro's thematic interest in inverting perception of the other.
They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. • H. P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth
Not quite as narratively clever or thought-provoking as Pan’s Labyrinth, but this is Del Toro’s most personal film—his bleeding heart firmly affixed to its scaly sleeve. Hawkins is a lovely lead, but it’s Shannon who steals the show with his unsettling, sinister magnetism holding sway over the entire enterprise. An abashedly romantic, magical piece of cinema for every monster-loving misfit.
Always compelling to look at thanks to Laustsen's cinematography and that gorgeous production design - the greens, blues, and reds are so sharp and cleverly used - The Shape of Water never struggles in terms of aesthetic. The story is generally lovely and there are plenty of exciting sequences, but I never found myself immersed in the main love story between Elisa and the creature.