Del Toro’s Water lacks true depth The Shape of Water (R16)
123 mins ★★★1⁄2
Fans of Pan’s Labyrinth (and maybe Pacific Rim and Hellboy?) will be excited about director Guillermo del Toro’s latest fantasy-fest: a love story between a mute cleaner and the sea creature imprisoned at the government facility where she works.
Del Toro’s film looks incredible with its gliding camerawork and gorgeous lighting, and if one is partial to whimsical heroines and vicious villains in an artful 1960s setting, then The Shape of Water will deliver. But with a plot that lacks nuance or complexity, and a script that says much while meaning little, I was underwhelmed.
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a plucky young woman who lives a life of contented, silent routine next door to the avuncular Giles (Richard Hawkins). You don’t have to be odd to be mute, but if Hawkins (Paddington, Maudie )is doing it, you will be. As much as I have criticised her overacting in the past, if anyone’s going to convey character without speaking then Hawkins is your actress. Elisa’s world is disrupted one day when a mysterious ‘‘asset’’ is acquired and locked up cruelly by the exceptional Michael Shannon. Elisa falls into an enchantment, and together with her overly chatty fellow cleaner Zelda, Elisa seeks to free the captured beast.
Del Toro has a history of making beautiful cinema, and Water‘s principal charm lies in the details of the world he builds. The soundtrack mimics 2001’s genuinely delightful Ame´lie and the otherworldliness of the tale goes some way to mitigating a script which over-explains aspects of character we already get (OK, Shannon is terrifying!).
But despite the set-pieces’ beauty, the story shuffles predictably towards its conflict and conclusion. For those who want look and feel, this may be enough. - Sarah Watt