Fish­ing for love in im­prob­a­ble places

Cynon Valley - - SCREENSHOTS -

THE SHAPE OF WA­TER (15, 123 mins)

MEX­I­CAN film­maker Guillermo del Toro’s reimag­in­ing of the Beauty And The Beast fairy tale set in 1962 Bal­ti­more is an erot­i­cally-charged love story which em­pow­ers its richly drawn fe­male char­ac­ters to de­feat prej­u­dice in its myr­iad ugly forms.

The script, co-writ­ten by del Toro and Vanessa Tay­lor, doesn’t sug­ar­coat the cen­tral ro­mance be­tween a mute clean­ing lady and a car­niv­o­rous mer­man.

Lus­trous pe­riod de­tail evokes an era of suf­fo­cat­ing Cold War para­noia with aplomb, re­flected in snappy di­a­logue like when one kind­hearted sci­en­tist ar­gues that it would be un­con­scionable to vivi­sect any crea­ture ca­pa­ble of un­der­stand­ing and emo­tions.

“So are the Sovi­ets – and we still kill them, don’t we?” re­torts a US sol­dier.

The story’s “princess with­out a voice” is Elisa (Sally Hawkins). She works as a cleaner along­side sharp-tongued pal Zelda (Oc­tavia Spencer) at Oc­cam Aero­space Re­search Cen­tre, a topse­cret US govern­ment site where sci­en­tist Robert Hoff­stetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) con­ducts ex­per­i­ments to pro­pel Amer­ica ahead of the Soviet Union in the space race.

Clean­ing su­per­vi­sor Flem­ing (David Hewlett) calls to­gether staff to re­late ex­cit­ing news about the ar­rival of “the most sen­si­tive as­set ever to be housed in this fa­cil­ity”.

Soon af­ter, Colonel Richard Strick­land (Michael Shan­non) shep­herds a large metal con­tainer into one of the lab­o­ra­to­ries.

In­side is a be­guil­ing aquatic crea­ture (Doug Jones), which Strick­land boasts he “dragged out of the river muck in South Amer­ica”.

Elisa be­comes emo­tion­ally at­tached to the mer­man, us­ing sign lan­guage and mu­sic as a crude yet ef­fec­tive form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

They even­tu­ally fall in love and the cleaner hatches a hare-brained plan to smug­gle her web­footed paramour out of the fa­cil­ity so he can be re­turned to the wild.

“It is not even hu­man,” ar­gues scaredy-cat neigh­bour Giles (Richard Jenk­ins).

“If we don’t do some­thing,” replies Elisa fu­ri­ously, “nei­ther are we.”

The Shape Of Wa­ter de­liv­ers on the dizzy­ing prom­ise of 13 Os­car and 12 Bafta nom­i­na­tions, con­jur­ing an in­tox­i­cat­ing spell through mes­meris­ing per­for­mances, sharp writ­ing and del Toro’s di­rec­to­rial dar­ing.

The Shape of Wa­ter

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