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‘The Shape Of Water’ is a gorgeous nautical Romeo & Juliet for social outsiders

Sally Hawkins is beyond remarkable in Guillermo del Toro’s haunting romance.
Sally Hawkins in Shape Of Water
[Image: Fox Searchlight Pictures]

‘The Shape Of Water’

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins

Rating: R

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4 (Out Of 5) Globes

Plot: Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a mute janitor that feels ostracized from the rest of the people living in 1962, who are strickened by the paranoia of the Cold War. Elisa has her routine, though, which involves spending time with her gay neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) and working alongside Zelda (Octavia Spencer) in a bizarre research facility. But when Elisa strikes up a friendship with a bizarre Amphibious Man (Doug Jones) that is being abused inside the facility, she suddenly finds new purpose in life. 

Review: Guillermo del Toro’s profound love of cinema, inherently romantic outlook, and meticulous eye for the dark and bizarre has always meant that watching one of his films is an utterly absorbing and unique experience. With “The Shape Of Water” all of that comes together in arguably the most profound manner of del Toro’s career so far, as he creates a gothic, romantic fairytale that’s dripping in subtext and passion.

There are so many levels to “The Shape Of Water” that in any other hands they would have all folded in on each other. But del Toro’s structuring, and the work of composer Alexandre Desplat and cinematographer Dan Laustsen, mean that it builds rather than stagnates, and the sadness of its characters and the film’s visuals mesh wonderfully with the heroism and uplifting spirit of the plot.

Del Toro’s pitch perfect ensemble also hammer home every beat and emotion, too. That’s hardly surprising because in Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer he has four of the best American actors working today. But it is Sally Hawkins that truly steals “Shape Of Water.” She’s so expressive, boisterous, romantic, and charismatic as Elisa, all without saying a word, that you’re left in awe and in love with her performance. Ultimately, “Shape Of Water” might not culminate with that surprising a crescendo, but it strikes all the right notes in such an potent manner throughout that you can’t help but get caught up in it.