Costume design has come a long way since the 50s (although we’d be worried if it hadn’t). And nobody is likely to be more thankful for prosthetic advancement more than Doug Jones; the lucky actor tasked with playing yet another monster in Del Toro’s filmography. This time Jones is the striking ‘Amphibian Man’, a creature reminiscent of The Gill Man from Jack Arnold’s creature classic, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
For many, del Toro has become an ideas man in recent years. While he continues to prove that he’s got ideas that shoot for the moon, people often find that his mainstream films have fallen short of that same ambition. With The Shape of Water however, the distinctive filmmaker takes on a story he was born to create: a genre-fusing love story that’s seamless in how it blends in themes of a B-movie thriller.
I admit that I knew very little going into the staff preview of this film. Set in 1962, in Cold War America, The Shape of Water follows Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner at a high-security government facility whose life is changed when she comes across an imprisoned human-like amphibian.
What follows is a solid story told with Guillermo del Toro’s usual flare for fantastical detail. He explores a heightened version of late-50s America; the big cars and the biblical epics playing on the big screen in the cinema below Eliza’s apartment. It’s these glitzy, warming details of his latest world that become punctuated by alarming, but real scenes of racism, homophobia and the hostility towards being different.
It’d be easy to talk about The Shape of Water a little too much so I’m going to leave it here. If you’ve had any doubts over Guillermo del Toro’s recent projects then there is no doubt that this time the filmmaker hits it out of the park and presents us with his best film since Pan’s Labyrinth. Despite it’s disturbing undercurrents of society, the film is a showcase of humanity and optimism.