Guillermo Del Toro you tricky bastard! A period piece, a creature feature, and what’s this? It’s a romance film underneath it all? And your’e telling me it was met with universal praise by both audience members and critics alike? Excuse me while I grab the worlds biggest knife and fork and start to dig into this absolute slice of cinema. Directed by Guillermo Del Toro and Written by Guillermo Del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. Let’s take a dive into this gorgeous and somewhat lacking picture together shall we?
A plot summary by me, for you.
It’s the 1960s ladies and gentlemen, which 1960s? Well I’m not entirely sure actually I don’t think its stated, or it is? Just take your pick. All I can be sure of is there's communists about and something much more… fishy! We find ourselves thrown into the the day to day routine of Elisa (Sally Hawkins). A quaint mute woman who works as a cleaner in a government facility alongside her friend Zelda (Octavia Spencer), all was going well, quite uniform in fact then all of a sudden a new “Asset” is delivered to the facility and things go topsy turvy! Its a fish man, a fish man shows up and they eat eggs and fall in love I guess?
I just want to state I really enjoyed this film, its an incredible work of art and all parties involved done a truly amazing job. It won the Oscar for best picture which of course is nothing to turn ones nose up at. However, as much as I enjoyed this film there was a few issues with it that hold it back from being a modern classic in my opinion (and thats all this is really just my opinion). The high tides and the low tides that form The Shape of Water.
So I don’t wanna go through the motions like this all the time, you know? Listing of all the great performances (Which they are they’re all exceptional especially Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins), describing how the set design/production is flawless (It really is stunning truly, the grimy washed out aesthetic of the 1960s is entrancing, not to mention the use of water within the world its just so perfectly utilised) and just spewing about how the musical score is just perfect (The score is so dynamic and fluid, the composer Alexandre Desplat pumped the heart and soul into this film with his soothing and ethereal score which just resonates with what I’d imagine the sea would sound like if it could sing).
This is a romance film, a love story between a woman and an aquatic fish man, an unconventional tale of two hearts becoming one. This is the whole crux of the film, the core element, the beating and bleeding heart if you will. Then why does it feel like its lacking massively in this department? Personally I saw it as a rather hollow and forced romance. It doesn’t feel like their connection blossoms naturally, no time is given for this to happen. All we’re given is a brief montage of Elisa playing music for fish man and them eating a bunch of eggs together.
This stems back to my main and biggest criticism of this film, the pacing. Its all over the place! The core story feels like it was rushed while there was time given to other scenes that were rather pointless and unnecessary because of this the romance was cut short and the intimacy and genuine connection we were meant to believe was there was practically amputated. This film finds itself dehydrated when it comes to love which is such a crucial element since this is after all a romance film.
One last thing simply has to be mentioned here, it’d be down right criminal if I didn’t. Doug Jones, the man behind the make up and the prosthetics. He delivers and incredible performances despite never uttering a word or even looking remotely human, he’s renowned for his work in this particular field of acting and has worked with Guillermo Dell Toro a number of times in the past always rendering stunning results.
Time to place down the worlds biggest knife and fork as this slice of cinema has been eaten and I must say it’s gone down a treat, now it may have had a less than savoury after taste but that doesn’t take away from the overall beautiful presentation of it and the rich indulgent initial taste as it first encounters the senses. The Shape of Water is a Guillermo Del Toro number through and through, heavy scoops of style with a slightly lacking serving of substance, despite that its always a treat to consume.