Review: The Shape of Water is an enchanting and thoroughly absorbing fairytale

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water - Credit: Archant

Winner of this year’s Oscar for best picture, The Shape of Water is the latest film from highly rated Mexican film maker Guillermo Del Toro, who also won the academy award for Best Director.

The film tells the story of a mute cleaner at a scientific Laboratory who falls in love with an amphibious creature brought in for study.

Sally Hawkins stars in the lead role of Eliza, who due to her inability to speak communicates purely through sign language. Her exceptional, mostly silent performance earned Hawkins a second Oscar nomination having previously gained academy recognition for her supporting role in 2014s Woody Allen picture Blue Jasmine.

The film takes place in 1960s Baltimore and the period setting allows Del Toro to riff on his love for classic Hollywood movies and brings a melancholy feel to the film.

Richard Jenkins and Octavia Spencer are both excellent in supporting roles (and were also both Oscar nominated). Spencer as Eliza’s talkative workmate and Jenkins as her friend and neighbour, who himself is struggling to hide his sexuality from an unsympathetic world.

Michael Shannon is great at playing the menacing villain and here it is no different. His character, a cruel government agent, is a little cliched but he brings such an intensity to role that it remains thoroughly engaging.

The other-worldly creature is beautifully realised by regular Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, who performs under a plethora of scaly make up and brings a graceful dignity to the misunderstood beast.

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Del Toro has always been a skilled at creating captivating fantasy fables and with The Shape of Water he crafts a sweet and uncynical love story which explores the loneliness of his misfit characters and their longing for connection.

Offering a fresh spin on the classic Beauty and the Beast story, the film delivers an enchanting and thoroughly absorbing fairytale.

A refreshingly bold choice for the Academy’s Best Picture and Arguably Del Toros best film to date.