The Shape of Water is, ah, shaping up to be the film of the year. Guillermo del Toro’s latest brilliant film just won the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Film Festival, and it’s a good bet to win at least The People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It’s been such a hot ticket, it took me two tries to see it. And that’s at press and industry only screenings! It doesn’t come out until Friday, December 8th in North America, but lucky for all y’awl, the Red Band trailer just dropped. That and a mini-review after the jump!
Sally Hawkins is Eliza Esposito, a mute cleaning woman working at a top secret Baltimore lab facility. Sinister government agent Strickland (Michael Shannon) arrives with a mysterious cargo, and before long Eliza realizes Strickland has captured a real living merman. Shannon detests the creature as an abomination against God, and the perfected form of God’s image that mankind (oh yes, it’s very definitely man-kind) represents. What follows is an amazing love story, a sort of beauty and the beast tale overflowing with unlikely charm. Picture Amélie meets The Creature From the Black Lagoon.
Eliza hatches a rescue plan with an unlikely crew, her scaredy-cat gay neighbour (Richard Jenkins) and her black chatterbox cleaning pal (Octavia Spencer). With a surprising assist from the Russians, who have of course infiltrated the lab, they set out to save the day.
When a mute, a gay man and a black woman work together to save a misunderstood man-fish from the evils of the narrow-minded white males in charge, it’s pretty easy to glean the subtext here. Set in a fifties obsessed with a gleaming future where the white guys unscrupulously run the show forever, The Shape of Water is a wonderful turning of the tables. Del Toro’s stated he wanted to make an optimistic response to our troubled times, and he more than succeeds, with easily his best film since Pan’s Labyrinth.
Enjoy the trailer, pat yourself on the back if you managed to catch it at TIFF, and hang tough, the rest of you. The Shape of Water will be a fantastic early Christmas present. I’ll have a longer review closer to the big release.