Beauty and the Beast, for grown-ups? The Creature from the Black Lagoon meets Casablanca? Or, like nothing you’ve ever seen before?
Whichever way you cook it, The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro’s visually astonishing, emotionally heartbreaking latest masterpiece, should be right at the top of your new year must-see movies list.
An other-worldly, gorgeous-but-gory fairytale set in a 1962 America where the Cold War throbs in the background, it’s a love story between the lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins, so brilliant), a mute cleaning lady in a high-security government lab where Doug Lones’ (at his very best here) secret classified experiment also lives. In a very deep water tank.
He’s an amphibian, captured from the Amazon, that the government wants to conduct all manner of unspeakable experiments on, in some cloudy hope of getting one up on the dastardly Russians. She is the result of an abusive childhood (during which she had her vocal chords horrifically cut). Both oppressed, both intrigued, they fall deeply in love, a King Kong and Ann Darrow dynamic so beautifully drawn it will at once destroy your tear ducts and give you hope for humanity.
Del Toro has had a rough ride of it since he left The Hobbit after creative differences saw him replaced by Peter Jackson. His rebound was the dumb-but-fun Pacific Rim. His follow-up the okay Gothic ghost story of Crimson Peak. Here, though, he doesn’t just return to the quality of past glories such as Pan’s Labyrinth, he glides past them. Rightly talked-up for Oscars, this is the movie that puts him up their with his fellow Mexican auteurs Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, The Revenant).
A love story for the ages, this is lovely, scary and awesome all at once. Dive right in.
The Shape of Water in cinemas across Doha from Thursday March 8.