Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a masterfully told, visually stunning film which blends horror and fantasy so effortlessly that it transcends its fairy tale origins to become one of the most beautiful and emotionally poignant films of the year.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, The Shape of Water tells the story of Elisa – a mute woman who works in a top secret, high security government facility as a cleaning lady as she lives a life of quiet monotony. Her life is one of well-practiced routine, one – for the most part – she seems comfortable in, if not entirely happy with. But that routine is suddenly shattered with the arrival of a mysterious, aquatic creature and the hostile government agents who captured and brought it there for study. As Elisa and the creature develop a unique bond, their lives – and those of everyone around them – are dramatically altered in ways none of them could ever have believed possible.

Writer and director Guillermo del Toro, known for crafting visually arresting and moving tales of love and loss, creates one of the most hauntingly beautiful films in recent memory. Brilliant performances, astounding practical effects, and expert cinematography work together flawlessly to create something that is both engaging in the moment and yet lingers with the audience long after it ends.

While everyone in the film, from Michael Shannon’s truly disturbing Strickland to Octavia Spenser’s Zelda, is excellent it is Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones that completely capture the audience’s attention. Sally Hawkins is absolutely stunning as Elisa, seeming to embody both strength and vulnerability simultaneously. Doug Jones, in one of the most amazingly complex and organic full-body prosthetics I’ve ever seen, brings the creature to life so completely that it’s impossible to see him as anything other than the male lead (something which del Toro was adamant about in directing the character design).

The music and the color pallet are artfully chosen to enhance every element of the film, yet they never take center stage – allowing the characters to absorb the whole of the audience’s attention.

The Shape of Water, much like del Toro’s film Pan’s Labyrinth, is an achingly beautiful story told with passion and crafted with meticulous care – it is a testament to both the power of the performances and the skill of the storytellers.

5 out of 5 stars

Rated: R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones
Runtime: 2h 3min
Release Date: December 8, 2017 (USA)
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