The Shape of Water falls into that category of films that are solid, beautiful to look at but have a predictable story. Despite the predictability the film is so good that the simplistic plot can be easily ignored. The other films that are in a similar vein are Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist, Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre and Michael Radford’s The Postman.
The film is essentially about a mute cleaner who works at a top secret building, who falls in love with a fishlike humanoid, not too dissimilar to the creature from the black lagoon. She smuggles him out of the building and he lives with her and her close friend. Obviously the nasty head of the agency wants him back due to pressure of the military and eventually discovers where the creature is staying, which leads to a showdown but the fishman does escape and takes his love with him to the sea where they live happily ever after. There’s also a tiny subplot which concerns Russian spies but there’s no need to delve into that. All I can say is that it ties nicely with the main storyline.
A more cynical person could point out the flaws instantly. You can spot the bad guy after the first five minutes, you know that there will be a happy ending, you know that there will be a death. However, I didn’t care.
The Shape of Water, is an aesthetic masterpiece. After the credit roll my girlfriend remarked that the coloration of the film is like Jean Pierre Jeunot’s Amelie that, combined with del Toro’s distinct visuals heightens your senses when watching the film.
There’s also a lot of charm, the characters may be one dimensional but it doesn’t matter. You will still emote for the main protagonists or show hatred for the bad guys in this film. The Shape of Water sucks you in. It’s a wonderful story from beginning to end.
I did have one gripe though.
The baddy of the film, compulsively eats mints. When he is nervous he bites them but normally he sucks on them loudly. I cannot stand the sound of people eating, let alone the clacking of mints against teeth and every time I heard that character suck his mints I would shudder. Thankfully this only happens about five times throughout the movie.
What else can I say? now and then we need a film that is well structured but also manages to welcome you into their world and seduce you. I felt that Shape of Water managed that. After all cinema is supposed to be a form of escape and del Toro’s latest follows that maxim excellently.