The Shape Of Water Reviewed By Clayton Barnett

The Premise
From master storyteller Guillermo del Toro comes THE SHAPE OF WATER, an otherworldly fable set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Doug Jones.
The Review
Fantasy maestro Guillermo del Toro is back with his best yet – a horrific, romantic and topical fairytale that is destined for Oscar glory.
Del Toro has already meticulously crafted some of my favourite movies - Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy – and his latest effort goes straight into my top ten of 2018.
In a moving acceptance speech for his Best Director Golden Globe, del Toro said his monsters have saved his life in three precise instances - referencing Labyrinth, Backbone and The Shape of Water - “Because monsters I believe are patron saints of our blissful imperfection.”
His phenomenal cast have also been garnering awards love too. The Globe-nominated Sally Hawkins comes into her own as Elisa – she’s whip-smart, funny and sexy as hell. Such a well-written role for such an underrated actress. And it’s so refreshing to have a female character in an American movie that enthusiastically embraces her sexuality.
Supporting crew Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins also picked up noms for their great work and Michael Stuhlbarg (who can also be seen on screens in Call Me by Your Name) has a lot of fun playing Russian sleeper agent. But it’s Michael Shannon who plays the real monster here; he just digs his teeth in and goes full-menace.
For all the human talent it’s the production crew who deserve some award recognition too. Not only do they create a fantastic creature (brought to life by del Toro’s go-to monster man Doug Jones), but some of the team behind Toro’s Crimson Peak also deliver a gorgeous dreamlike rendering of 60’s Americana.
We have 50’s B-movie horror Creature From the Black Lagoon to thank for this masterpiece – del Toro could have remade his childhood favourite but he wanted to make his interpretation without studio interference.
Of all things Del Toro’s timeless fairytale takes me back to Edward Scissorhands, another gorgeous period romantic fantasy about misunderstood monsters. If you enjoyed the magic of that then you’ll love this, a heartfelt as a romance you’ll see this year.

The Verdict
A fairytale for troubled times this is the first must-see of the year. A beautiful blend of genres, this will give you glorious frights, solid laughs and delicious romantic thrills. It’s a del Toro masterpiece.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 18th January 2018
Rating: R16 – Contains Violence, horror, sex scenes & offensive language
Duration: 123 minutes
Genre:  Genre
Starring: Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg
Director: Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy 2)
The Extras
After seeing the trailer, director Kevin Smith tweeted: 'Seeing something as beautiful as this makes me feel stupid for ever calling myself a "Director."'
Guillermo del Toro said about Sally Hawkins, "Not only was she the first choice, she was the only choice. I wrote the movie for Sally, I wrote the movie for Michael [Shannon]... Sally is, I wanted the character of Elisa to be beautiful, in her own way, not in a way that is like a perfume commercial kind of way. That you could believe that this character, this woman would be sitting next to you on the bus. But at the same time she would have a luminosity, a beauty, almost magical, ethereal."
Most of the characters were written with the actors in mind. Octavia Spencer said her character was reminiscent of a collaboration between her roles in The Help (2011) and Hidden Figures (2016), and that she "would have played the desk if Guillermo del Toro had asked me to".
Guillermo del Toro first met Sally Hawkins at the 2014 Golden Globes, and pitched the film to her while being intoxicated; "I was drunk and it's not a movie that makes you sound less drunk".
Octavia Spencer said she "would have walked the Earth to work with" director Guillermo del Toro. She was so taken with the set and the many props that she asked Toro how many she was allowed to keep.
Despite visual similarities, Guillermo del Toro has denied that this film has any connections to Hellboy (2004).
When she was offered the lead role in this film, Sally Hawkins herself was working on a script for a short film about a woman who turns into a fish.
Set during a real-life war and featuring magical elements. This was also the premise for Guillermo del Toro's earlier film Pan's Labyrinth (2006).
This project marks the first time that Guillermo del Toro has had a female co-writer on his script.