Throughout his career, Guillermo del Toro has developed a reputation for crafting some of Hollywood’s most prominent oddities – from the dark fantasy of Pan’s Labyrinth to the gothic romance of Crimson Peak. But it’s The Shape Of Water that may well prove to be his masterpiece, with the Mexican auteur crafting a magnificently twisted tale that is somewhere in between Beauty And The Beast and The Creature From The Black Lagoon.
Set against the backdrop of the US-Soviet Space Race, The Shape Of Water sees Sally Hawkins deliver an Oscar-worthy turn as Elisa, a mute cleaner who develops the unlikeliest of relationships with a mysterious humanoid that is housed at the government facility where she works. However, it isn’t long before their risky relationship puts them at odds with Michael Shannon’s sadistic colonel who initially pulled the creature from a South American river.
In the hands of del Toro, the strangest of premises is transformed into one of the most consistently beautiful love stories to have played out on the big screen in years – and it’s largely down to the strong sense of innocence and humanity that stops it from playing out like an interspecies freak show. Hawkins, too, has never been better, anchoring the film with an incredibly powerful performance as she lets her face do all the talking.
Ultimately, del Toro’s masterpiece is an utter triumph in finding love and humanity in the most unlikely of places – and it asks us to do exactly the same.