Film review: The Shape of Water (3/5)
The Shape Of Water is the kooky, offbeat and unusual entry for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards. With an impressive total of twelve other nominations, including best actress, best score, best screenplay and best director, it has certainly made a splash and it seems more than guaranteed that it will go home with several gold statues. But is it really that unusual, or even original?
The story concerns a mute woman who works as a cleaner at a government facility. She goes through the same routine every day: boiling eggs, bathing, talking to her artist neighbour and listening to her best friend chat as they work. It is only when a new delivery to the lab, something not quite fish and not quite man, begins to respond to her, that she discovers something more.
The film is an unconventional romance, to be sure. A mute woman and a sea creature (who is slimy and scaly, not beautiful like a mermaid) falling in love is not something you see every day. Their courtship is touching, as they are the only ones who truly see each other for whom they are, but the other parts of the story, those additional to the romance, are not so fresh.
We’ve seen this plot countless times in films such as Free Willy, or even Splash. The government lab, the abused specimen, the innocent who comes to care and wants to help, the daring rescue, the big bad man who will do whatever it takes to stop them. The only difference here is the level of sexualisation, violence and the skilled direction from Guillermo Del Toro.
The film is beautiful to look at; the atmosphere is evocative of its period and fairytale-esq. There are some truly tense moments, especially during the breakout, and the music is lovely.
Sally Hawkins is charming as Elisa and you really feel her anguish as she struggles to save the creature she loves. Michael Shannon as Colonel Strickland manages to be one of the most repulsive villains in recent movie-history. There is not one moment in which he is likeable. Doug Jones, whose whole career seems to have been spent under heavy makeup, is great as always.
It is impossible to call this film bad, and yet easy to say that it has been done before. It is a good film, maybe a wonderful one, but it is nothing new.
Perhaps if a twist had been employed, or the ending hadn’t been quite so saccharine, there would be more to say. As it is, The Shape Of Water is a film that is hard to form an opinion on. There is nothing wrong with it, and yet there is.
The Shape of Water is on general release, 2hr 3min, certificate 15