The Shape of Water – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

January 17, 2018 by Roz Tarszisz
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The story of an amphibious man-like creature is not new. While film making has come a long way since Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) there is still a strong sense of deja vu in this latest offering from Guillermo Del Toro who wrote the story, directed and co-wrote the script.

Del Toro has won a Golden Globe for direction but while the underwater scenes are beautiful, I was mostly unmoved.

The story is set in America in 1962, with a backdrop of the Cold War and the race to get a man on the moon.

Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins, Maudie) works nights in a high security government research laboratory where she and her friend and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures) clean the labs and toilets. Elisa is totally convincing as a lonely, mute woman who finds herself enthralled by the amphibian man (a well costumed Doug Jones) from the deep.

Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals) is the government agent who caught and schlepped the creature back from the Amazon and the lab’s scientists are excited by this top-secret thing, referred to as the Asset. We soon get a measure of Strickland with his obvious relish in torturing the strange creature – who soon gets his own back.

Elisa sees past the monster’s facade and develops a relationship with it/him. Neither can speak but they don’t need to.  Hawkins’ expressive face conveys so much without words and has managed to top her marvellous performance in Maudie.

She hatches a plan with her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins, Olive Kitteridge) to break out the Asset and set him free – does it start to sound familiar yet?

In a race against time for Elisa and Giles to evade the furious Strickland.   Throw in a Russian scientist/spy Dr Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) and there’s another stock baddie, or maybe not.

I could have done without the incongruous sequence where Elisa imagines dancing with her dripping beau, but then this is presented as a fantasy love story.

It was good that the monster wasn’t the one lurking in the slimy water, but the man who had captured him, but it still seemed like an oldfashioned mishmash of other movie fables.

3/5  Rated MA15+  Released January 18

Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

Written by Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor

Story by Guillermo Del Toro

Music by Alexandre Desplat

Costume designer Luis Sequeira

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