WORTH A LOOK?: ****
OPENS IN THE UK: 8/2/18
Guillermo del Toro’s tenth effort arrives on these shores with more Oscar nominations than any other film this year, a startling 13.
- Read on for reasons including who we think will this year’s Best Actress Oscar
At its heart is British actress Sally Hawkins (who you may remember from the 2012 Royal Court production of Constellations) who plays a mute cleaner in a top secret government laboratory at the height of the Cold War in Baltimore in 1962.
She forms an unlikely bond with a captive there, a humanoid-amphibian creature (pictured with her above) who is being tortured by the military.
Appalled by his treatment, she resolves with her work colleague (an underused Octavia Spencer) and gay best friend (Richard Jenkins, both Oscar nominated for their supporting roles) to set him free.
The film is at its most moving when Hawkins (terrific in a really difficult role where she is relying on sign language and artfully used subtitles to get her meaning across) argues with Jenkins about the importance of doing the right thing by the creature.
Her inability to speak makes the blooming romance with the creature more believable and, although the subject matter might sound a little difficult, the way in which the story is told makes it easy to get caught up with.
We especially appreciated the little details of the narrative: the object of Jenkins’ affection turns out to be a racist homophobe when he finally gets to know him, but found the B-movie feel of the action and cartoon villainy of the military a little too obvious.
However, it’s Hawkins performance which holds this all together and while we suspect this year’s Best Actress Oscar is going to Frances McDormand for Three Billboards, The Shape Of Water is a sweet and sentimental film that deserves all the plaudits it has been getting.