23 February 2018.
THE SHAPE OF WATER ****
This pre-Oscar season has been a rich one indeed – DARKEST HOUR, THREE BILLBOARDS…, THE POST (The Pentagon Papers), PHANTOM THREAD, LADYBIRD, DUNKIRK, and Woody’s WONDER WHEEL (unfortunately not in the awards lineup)… every one of them exceptional and Oscar-worthy. And then I saw THE SHAPE OF WATER and was blown away!
This work by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro is the very essence of love – complete opposites coming together in the tenderest, most peculiar of ways – a mute girl who works as a cleaner at a military facility during the 1960s and a captured river creature – learning to trust one another.
These two are the crux of the romance, surrounded by an array of characters that personify much of human nature: evil, portrayed by Michael Shannon; loyalty, embodied by Octavia Spencer; a solitary homosexual, portrayed by Richard Jenkins; and a decent spy, played by Michael Stuhlbarg – all excellent.
For me, this beautifully rendered homage to love-beyond-boundaries is simply the best film of the year. Its connecting thread is the surrealistic romance, but it’s also a magical story of lonely people, a thrilling spy yarn, and a most satisfying fairytale. Del Toro has often delved into monsters and fantastic tales, as in PAN’S LABYRINTH, but this latest watery monster (played by Paul Jones) has a pathos to him that is enchanting, as is the delicacy of Sally Hawkins performance. The film has already picked up the Golden Lion in Venice, best direction at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs, and 13 nominations for the Oscars.
What makes an outstanding film? Of course a great script, a visionary director, and all the rest that evolves from that crucial formula, but the final product has to grab you as though nothing exists outside you and the film. You sit in the dark and are transported to another world, emerging wide-eyed and somewhat transformed at the end. Here, the haunting music by the great Alexandre Desplat (won at the BAFTAs) is a superb addition – it’s almost another character in the story. And all of it brought together by the talent of Del Toro. Do not miss this wondrous film.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.