If you’re one of those people who often gazes off into the distance and longs for a world where the Creature From the Black Lagoon finally gets his happily ever after, boy, do I have the movie for you.
Or, even if that thought has somehow never entered your consciousness, this movie is still for you. At least it will be if you have some semblance of a beating heart and a taste for big screen adventures that effortlessly tap into the best and worst parts of humanity.
I’m talking of course about The Shape of Water, the latest offering from the brilliant mind of filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Crimson Peak, Pan’s Labyrinth) and a movie that blends elements from musicals, film noir, horror and fantasy into an intoxicating cinematic smoothie.
Listen: The Bind host Laura Brodnik explains why The Shape of Water is already being called the best movie of 2018.
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman in 1962 Baltimore who was abandoned by her parents as a baby and whose throat is criss-crossed with a mess of mysterious scars.
She lives a small, repetitive life that sees her days fall into an endless pattern of trudging from her shabby apartment to the secretive government research facility where she works as a cleaner. Elisa can hear perfectly well, but cannot speak, communicating with all around her via sign language.
Her closest friend is a closeted gay artist named Giles (Richard Jenkins) who lives across the hall and whose dreamlike voice narrates the movie’s exquisite opening sequence. A scene where the story is introduced in a fairy-tale like fashion as we first lay eyes upon a sleeping Elisa, floating gently in an underwater apartment. It’s a sequence that immediately makes you stop and wonder, is it all a dream or in fact the conclusion to the movie?
While in the midst of cleaning the secret facility, Elisa comes across the creature, or “asset” being held captive and experimented on by a team of military scientists.
The Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) is an aquatic, almost human-like creature who was captured in a remote part of the Amazon and has been violently transported to Baltimore by Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon, completely in his element in this deliciously evil role), who continues to mercilessly abuse him with the help of an electronic cattle prod.
Though neither of our leads can utter a word out loud, Elisa and the creature slowly start to form a relationship, a relationship that begins to spark with romance as they bond over their love of music, their fondness for hard-boiled eggs and the fact they both know what it is like to be seen as “other”.