Venice 2017: A Beautiful Story of Love in del Toro's 'The Shape of Water'
by Alex Billington
August 31, 2017
Cinema has always been a prominent medium for love stories, and there have been so many over the years. But there are always new stories to be told, that show us a different perspective, and once again fill us with passion and hope and happiness. Guillermo del Toro's new film, The Shape of Water, is one of the most beautiful love stories. Another fairy tale from the mind of the monster master, The Shape of Water has one major fantasy element to it, but it's also a "real" story set during the Cold War about human beings (and one fish creature). It is hands down one of Guillermo del Toro's best films, infused with so much passion, and romance, reminding us of the power of love. It seems cliche, but del Toro has laid his heart bare this time.
The Shape of Water is about a mute woman named Elisa, played exquisitely by Sally Hawkins. She works as a cleaning lady at a top secret research facility in a small town on the water. One day they bring in a fish creature (more like the Creature from the Black Lagoon than Abe Sapien in Hellboy) that has been abused and mistreated. She begins to become friends with it and starts to feel close to him, slowly falling in love. Surrounding her are multiple characters: her fellow cleaner friend, played by Octavia Spencer; a violent security G-Man, played by Michael Shannon; her nice roommate/friend, played by Richard Jenkins; and a scientist at the facility who may or may not have a hidden side, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. Their stories intertwine and combine in intricate ways, thanks to del Toro's masterful screenwriting and direction.
What unfolds before us is not just exciting to watch, but scary at times, and heartwarming, with moments of utter beauty and moments of brutal violence. This has all of the typical Guillermo del Toro touches, with gorgeously lavish dark, dingy sets, a wonderful score by Alexandre Desplat, an immense love for the art of cinema (she lives above a movie theater), not to mention a scaly fish creature (played of course by Doug Jones) who doesn't have any lines but does say plenty in his actions. This is one of del Toro's best because he gives us everything - not only romance, but also a love for movies, characters with multiple sides to them, powerful scenes and elaborate storytelling, and a reminder that there is a chance for a beautiful connection.
I was filled with such strong emotions and that's what I love the most about great films. Guillermo del Toro has shown us everything he has to offer here, giving us a story that has so much depth to it, and is full of so much beauty (thanks especially to the extraordinary Sally Hawkins). In times with so much tragedy and so much hardship, this kind of beauty is a good thing. I love that he has spent his time crafting something so full of passion. I love that he has snuck in cinema as part of the story, and there's a moment near that end that will leave everyone in awe (it reminded me of La La Land, which I adore). It's films like this that give us hope, and continue to show us that storytelling has the potential heal and help and bring so much joy to all of us. Thank you, Guillermo del Toro, for telling us such a wonderful love story, one that I won't soon forget.
Alex's Venice 2017 Rating: 9 out of 10
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