If you’ve yet to see Guillermo Del Toro’s latest creation, a fable and love story called “The Shape of Water,” I’ve got to tell you you’re missing out. I know that those of you who are familiar with del Toro’s work might be hesitant to believe this, as the filmmaker has a reputation for being a bit eccentric and his films like “Hellboy” or “Pan’s Labyrinth” aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. See this film anyway.
From a sheer storytelling standpoint, “The Shape of Water” weaves an incredibly complex storyline into an easy-to-understand format. What I appreciated most was how many layers there were to each scene: on the surface you have the central plot but just beneath there’s bubbling historical references and social commentary. While the story, as most stories do, definitely follows an arc, it isn’t one that’s often told and certainly in not so complex a format. Forgive me for being “that person,” but for all of the eccentricities of del Toro’s films, it’s so refreshing to view a story uniquely it’s own rather than the retelling of a horror, comedy or romance that’s been done so many times.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the story is that we know more about its supporting characters rather than the protagonist — a mute maid named Iliza. Yet, while there’s little exposition about her character’s past, Sally Hawkins somehow makes Iliza so human that it feels like the audience knows her. Hawkins’ performance is so authentic that for a large part of the movie, it didn’t occur to to me that we hadn’t heard her voice. Iliza’s counterpart, the centerpiece to the film, is a fantastical creature that we can presume to be mermaid, or merman, rather.
This creature can’t speak either — perhaps a symbolic allusion to its destiny with Iliza — and acts like a wild animal throughout several scenes, yet maintains a human-like quality nonetheless. Though clearly created with makeup and post-production effects, the creature looks real, which is a hard feat to accomplish.
So, whether you’re a fan of the director and filmmaker or not, it’s easy to appreciate his latest work and the work the cast put into bringing it to life. After seeing this movie, the audience is left with a lot to discuss, questions to ask and thoughts to think, which is really what all good stories do.