I haven't seen many of Guillermo del Toro's movies so I wouldn't call myself a fan, but I gotta admit he is a great filmmaker. He has his own, unique style and when it comes to making visually stunning films, he is the best. As proved by his previous movies, Pan's Labyrinth and Crimson Peak. The latter, however, was a disappointing result of choosing style over substance and I was worried the same would happen with The Shape of Water. It didn't.
Set in the 1960s, in Cold War era America, the film follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a lonely, mute but hearing lady who works as a cleaner at a secret government facility and is trapped in a monotonous and boring life. But one day a mysterious marine Creature (Doug Jones) is brought in for experiments led by the ruthless Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) who tortures the creature. When Elisa discovers the creature, she is immediately drawn to him and forms a bond with him.
And I'm pretty sure you know where this is going because there aren't many surprises or twists in this Story. And yet this story is very interesting and engaging. There are a few subplots that are just thrown in there and not explored at all, like Strickland's sadism or Eliza's neighbour (Richard Jenkins) homosexuality, but the overall plot has a good development.
What's more important is that this is a beautiful and touching story of love, not the typical girls meet boy, they fall in love kind of story, but a beauty-and-the-beast kind of story that shows how love can blossom everywhere, regardless of the physical appearance of a person. It's sweet and successfully shows how love can break down all the barriers. Sure, she is a human and he's a fantasy creature but that doesn't mean it's not relatable. Also, we cannot help but root for their relationship because they both know what it means not being understood. This relationship is exactly what Elisa needs, both physically (which is why the masturbation scenes are necessary) and emotionally.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The character of Elisa is well written and has a good development but most of all benefits from the terrific performance from Sally Hawkins. With her character being robbed of her voice since she was a kid, Hawkins has no other way to communicate her feelings, her isolation than using signs, facial expressions and body language and she does a wonderful job.
The supporting characters aren't that great though. As I mentioned above, they lack development and characterization. One personality trait is all they get. In spite of that, the cast gives great performances, especially Octavia Spencer who plays Elisa's co-worker and friend Zelda, and Michael Shannon, the real monster in this film.
Just like any other Guillermo del Toro movie I've seen, The Shape of Water is visually stunning. Cinematography, sets, costumes, it's all gorgeous. Also, there's a nice musical number and an outstanding score by Alexandre Desplat.