What you need to know about The Shape Of Water, the BAFTA-busting film about a woman in love with a giant fish

Will it sweep the board at the Oscars?

In today’s BAFTA nominations announcement, The Shape of Water seemed to have pre-emptively swept the board, receiving the most nominations of any film – 12 – including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director and Best Film. As we run up to the Oscars in March, here’s what you need to know about 2018’s Awards-bait film.

1. It’s pretty out-there

Guillermo Del Toro directed this fantasy drama – he’s the same guy who gave us strange, trippy films like Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim – so you’re guaranteed to see similarly weird elements in The Shape of Water. Set in a ’60s government laboratory where an amphibious creature from the Amazon is being studied, it’s essentially a love story between a mute janitor who works there, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), and the amphibious creature being studied (Doug Jones). The pair become… very close.

2. It’s based on a ’50s horror film

Del Toro and Daniel Kraus developed the film from one of Kraus’ ideas. The 1954 monster-horror Creature from the Black Lagoon was a huge influence: in that film, an aquatic monster known as Gill-Man becomes fascinated with a female character called Kay, who’s part of a scientific expedition whose aim it is to capture or kill the monster and study its breathing. That film has a tragic ending: the creature is killed but is lost by the scientists. No one wins.

Throughout his career Del Toro has expressed wishes to remake that film but “genre got in the way”, he says.  The Shape of Water is, therefore, like a tribute to one of his favourite monster films ever. It riffs on similar themes, and reflects it in many ways, but it deals with its ideas in a much more tender-hearted way.

3. You’ll recognise the monster

Former contortionist Doug Jones played the ‘Pale Man’ (below) in Pan’s Labyrinth – a fantasy also by Guillermo Del Toro. In this film he has a much larger role as the subaquatic creature known as ‘Amphibian Man’, with whom Sally Hawkins’ Eliza forms an intimate bond.

4. It’s well on its way to Oscars glory

At the Venice Film Festival in September 2017, The Shape of Water won the festival’s greatest honour – the Golden Lion. With two Golden Globes wins and a raft of BAFTA nominations on its plate – plus SAG award nominations for Sally Hawkins and supporting actor Richard Jenkins – it’s all but guaranteed to get plenty of Oscar nods, if not wins.

5. It’s going to be a novel too

Guillermo Del Toro and Daniel Kraus’ story has been novelised by author Kraus, and it appears that it will tell much more of the story than what we see on-screen. You can read an extract of it here, before its release on February 27, 2018.