Whenever a new Guillermo Del Toro movie comes out, for me it’s an event that I have to attend to. I love his visual style and his storytelling sensitivities and the Shape of Water was no different; know that while reading this review and if you wish, take everything with a pinch of salt.
Simply put, the Shape of Water is Del Toro’s second best movie to date, just behind Pan’s Labyrinth in my personal opinion. All the components that make Del Toro’s work so unique are here and turned to eleven; visually one of the most beautiful films to come out last year with award worthy cinematography and CG blended in seamlessly. The plot is about a woman whose life takes an unexpected turn when a creature is brought in her workplace; this may sound a bit like a horror movie but it is best categorized as a romantic drama dealing with lots of different aspects such as religion, finding your place in the world and the right people to share it with. Thus it has several layers and handles them with incredibly strong writing as well as nearly perfect execution, in terms of story and the messages it tries to convey- the exception being some lines of dialogue that are too on the nose for my liking and not allowing for interpretation from the viewer’s part- creating an immersive and engaging experience.
The technical aspects of the movie were also incredible, with the excellent sound design and the delightful soundtrack being particular standouts; the editing was really good as well, however there were a few scenes that felt out of place and the runtime of the movie-especially the beginning of the second act- dragged on a bit too much for me and could have shaved off five minutes or more to help keep the flow smoother. The performances were as expected: incredible. Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer were standouts in my opinion giving brave and committed performances in their respective roles; however Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg were also excellent in their portrayals of their own characters. At the helm of this endeavor was Del Toro whose directorial skills shinned once again as the movie had a clear and consistent direction in terms of the story, the visuals and the sets used as well as the actors and the technical departments mentioned before.
There were a few missteps along the way such as the few ‘on the nose’ dialogue writing, the movie feeling a bit sluggish during the opening of the 2nd act, as well as Michael Shannon’s character feeling too one sided and not as developed as the other excellent characters and some standout moments of deus ex machina to progress the plot. However these are not enough to damage the overall experience of the movie and if you have not checked it out yet, find the biggest screen you can and allow yourself to be immersed in this excellent world and experience this excellent movie.
A more in-depth (and spoiler filled) discussion can be found here.