Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Among the nine features in the filmography of Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro, only “The Pan’s Labyrinth” can compete with his newest creation “The Shape of Water”, a dark poem rooted in the most fantastic fairy-tale tradition and stirred by magic, excitement, and strong emotional spins. Impeccably written by Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, the film is a successful compound of romance, sci-fi, comedy, drama, and thriller with espionage undertones.
Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute orphan young woman who loves old musicals and tap dancing, lives alone, above a huge movie theater in 1962 Baltimore. In one of her first scenes, she bursts in sensuality and eroticism, masturbating in the bathtub while immersed in water until the neck. Her best friend is Giles (Richard Jenkins), a solitary middle-aged gay artist who lives next door and struggles both to sell his work and assume his sexual identity.
Elisa works as a janitor at a secret governmental laboratory, teaming up with Zelda (Octavia Spencer), a co-worker who is able to interpret effortlessly her gestural language. They suddenly notice an absurd daily increase of blood on the floor of the lab after being told that the facility is about to hold the most sensitive ‘asset’ ever - a humanoid amphibious creature that had been captured in a South American river by the heartless Col. Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Her nosiness is enlarged when Richard, a merciless torturer, loses two fingers, hauled by the raging monster as a response to the electric shocks he was being subjected to.
While cleaning or visiting in secrecy, she communicates with the perspicacious creature, which, for her surprise, likes music and also deals with emotion. When a strong bond was consolidated between them, the bad news arrives: the creature is to be dissected in order to study possible advantages in spaceflight improvement for the Americans, deeply involved in a fierce competition with the Russians. Suffering a good deal with the idea, Elisa sees no other option than risk herself to save the living thing. She will do it with precious back up from Giles, Zelda, and Dimitri (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Soviet spy infiltrated as a scientist.
Sank in astounding detail and rich imagery, this bizarre love story gets wildly violent by the end and was devised with all the ingredients needed to entertain throughout without falling into a single dull moment. As a norm, we have the good against the bad; but here, the good ones are truly empathic common mortals with whom we can immediately identify with, while the bad ones become memorable villains, especially Shannon, who gives another tour-de-force performance as an ignoble egotist, sadistic, harasser, and sexist.
Besides this aspect, we have powerful dynamics, funny lines, and a glamorous soundtrack that ranges from Brazilian samba to romantic waltzes sung in French to expressive chamber orchestrations. Moreover, with Del Toro at his finest, expect to be jaw-dropped with the magnificence of the visuals. Let yourself be hastened into this unforgettable water slide ride.