If you are in the mood for a love story and you don’t mind the participants being from different life forms, I have one for you.
The first time or two I saw the previews for The Shape of Water I wasn’t really impressed. The third time was the charm, something in the trailer peaked my curiosity and I think it was the music. Offbeat films are my métier, so this little film grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let go.
Writer/director Guillermo del Toro has conjured up a tale of espionage, science fiction and a very heartfelt love story. It is a Cold War story of impossible love. He has been connected with many fanciful tales of fantasy for the big and small screens. He captures the Cold War paranoia of the early 1960’s with a throwback to science fiction films of the 1950’s (think Creature From the Black Lagoon). He keeps the tone light while the undercurrents of violence rumbles along just under the surface. There are menacing characters, primarily the Richard Strickland character that is even a brut in bed with his wife. His sadistic and creepy manner bubbles over throughout the film which gives the other characters something to play off of. He represents the sinister government and is no better than his Russian counterparts.
The cast is populated with stellar character actors including Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Nick Searcy, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlberg and Doug Jones. I was not very familiar with English actress Sally Hawkins but she’s dynamite in a quiet but powerful role.
The film is basked in muted tones that illuminate the aura of the seawater creature, not the neon look of the 1950’s, almost drab earth tones. The music has a period feel but almost a dreamy, playful flow. This is a fantasy.
The film doesn’t delve very deeply into the back-story of any of the characters, one weakness. If you spend much time wondering why these people, or the story behind the creature, you won’t come up with much. Everything prior to the day creature shows up is intentionally blank.
The plot has wide margins but narrows to a predictable conclusion. I knew where it was headed but I enjoyed the journey getting there.