The Shape of Water (2017)
Critic Consensus: The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best -- and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance.
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Critic Reviews for The Shape of Water
The movie's worldview is as easy to like as the protagonist and her friends, but del Toro lays it on so thick that there's no room for counterargument or even independent thought.
"The Shape of Water" is director Guillermo del Toro's finest film, a lovely, empathetic tribute to Old Hollywood, monster movies, outsiders and love that could only come from the mind of the visionary filmmaker.
The more I try to find some kind of justifiable meaning and relevance, the more I find The Shape of Water a loopy, lunkheaded load of drivel.
The visual stylist spins an adult fairy tale that takes elements from "Beauty and the Beast" and recasts them in an alternative universe that's a wonderfully rendered twist on our own.
An enchanting re-imagining of "Beauty and the Beast," it is an unforgettably romantic, utterly sublime, dazzling phantasmagoria.
Audience Reviews for The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water is an ingenious fantasy romance that utilizes cold war era elements to the advantage of its premise while subtly challenging our preconceived notions of established archetypes. Del Toro has an innate understanding of portraying beauty of purity in all it's forms while simultaneously showing us the grotesque underbelly and brutality of what it is to be human. These skills help him build a boy meets girl (or girl meets creature xP) fairytale with a believable yet dynamic supporting cast. The story is equal parts gripping as it is touching, overcoming it's formulaic approach by using unlikely characterization and story elements that come seamlessly together. Adding the films success to his repertoire definitely showcases Del Toro's ability to adapt and excel in multiple genres.
Guillermo del Toro has found himself to be quite the respected filmmaker over the years but, if I had to be brutally honest, I'd have to say that he's really only made a few films that could be classed as 'great' and he's not adverse to being disappointing on occasion. His latest films, Crimson Peak and Pacific Rim received a very mixed reception with the latter, in particular, being a huge misfire for me. That said, I do admire the man's imagination and I keep returning, hoping to see something of the greatness of Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and most importantly his near masterpiece of fantasy, Pan's Labyrinth. His latest, The Shape of Water doesn't quite hit the heights of the latter but that still doesn't stop in from being del Toro's best film for quite some time. Plot: Working in a hidden, high-security government laboratory, mute cleaner Elisa (Sally Hawkins) stumbles across a secret, unknown amphibian creature (Doug Jones) which is overseen by agent Strickland (Michael Shannon). Not before long, she develops an emotional attachment to this classified experiment that the government see as an "asset". As their relationship develops, Elisa is forced take matters into her own hands which is seen as threat to national security. The thing that's sets del Toro's fantasies apart from the rest is his ability to mesh then with other genres while also injecting a realistic element to them. The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth benefited greatly from their political undercurrent while also tapping into horror and folklore, respectively. The Shape of Water feels very much in tune with them and on this occasion he taps into the Cold War paranoia of America while also recognising the psyche that plagued the country during the secrecy of the Roswell incident and pays homage to the old Hollywood monster movies of yesteryear. There's a lot of care and attention went into this; from Nigel Churcher's rich art direction and Dan Lausten's beautifully rendered cinematography which compliment del Toro's vision and evocation of 1960's Americana. It's the kind of meticulous attention to detail that Todd Haynes would be proud of. But again, it's del Toro's ability to create his own niche by giving the film a very European flavour where I was reminded, on quite a few occasions, of Jean-Pierre Juenet's Amelie which is achieved through the magical score by Alexandre Desplat. It boasts a marvellous central performance from Sally Hawkins who's entirely convincing as a mute where she's so animated and expressive that it's easy to forget that she doesn't actually speak a word (with the exception of singing a musical number) throughout the entire film. Great support too from the imposing and always reliable Michael Shannon and the hugely underrated Richard Jenkins. Jenkins, in particular, brings a much needed light-heartedness to the film and despite being better known for his dramatic chops it's often overlooked just how good his comedic timing is. Here, it's on wonderfully subtle display. On paper, The Shape of Water probably sounds preposterous but visually and emotionally it's a vibrant experience that manages to be sweet, suspenseful and exciting all in equal measure. Put simply, this really shouldn't work but it's credit to del Toro that it does. He masterfully balances all of these elements and combines a romantic love story and sci-fi creature fable into a very convincing adventure. Mark Walker
Like many of Del Toro's movies, I just couldn't buy into it. I found myself not caring about the monster and I didn't buy the romance between it (him?) and the protagonist. It's an okay story about misunderstood and disenfranchised individuals, but in the end, I didn't laugh, didn't cry, and didn't find myself on the edge of my seat at any point during this film. I hesitate to call it "weird" or "strange" because I do appreciate originality, but original doesn't always mean good, and this film is an example of that.
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