Guadalajara native Guillermo del Toro may not be a particularly prolific director, but I made it a point to see every one of his new releases in the theater since ‘Blade II’ back in 2002. For the most part he has not disappointed, and I found that I like his unique style of fantasy-horror with gothic (and some baroque) flourishes. His latest directorial feature, ‘The Shape of Water,’ is a veritable masterpiece, garnering 13 Academy Award nominations to lead the pack in a crowded field this year.
TSOW is a “Frankenstein” love story set in 1962 during the height of the Cold War. Quiet and mousy Elisa (played by the Olive Oyl-ish Sarah Hawkins in a bravura performance) works as a cleaning lady at a top secret government facility. When a “what the heck is that?” amphibious creature looking like a cross between the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and Abe Sapien in Hellboy becomes the subject of a scientific study to gain advantage in the arms race between the US and the Soviet Union, she finds herself oddly and increasingly attracted to the monster referred to as “Amphibian Man” and hatches a plan to save him from the designs of the ruthless Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon).
I fell in love with this movie. While we can see influences from such films as ‘Swamp Thing,’ ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon,’ TSOW is no less an engrossing, richly detailed and poignant dark fairy tale in which to lose ourselves for two hours and a “love letter” to vintage Hollywood cinema to boot. IMHO TSOW surpassed even ‘Pan's Labyrinth’ as del Toro’s best movie yet and, barring an upset of ‘La La Land’ proportions, should get its due as the Best Picture of 2017 at the Oscars on March 4.
Wonder what their kids would look like....