Sally Hawkins' mute cleaner falls in love with a strange fish-man being in this enchanting fantasy
Sally Hawkins’ mute cleaner falls in love with a strange fish-man being in this enchanting fantasy.
Winner of four Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, Guillermo del Toro’s deliriously strange fantasy weaves a magical spell.
Lonely Hawkins lives above a cinema and works the night shift as a cleaner at a top-secret US government facility in Baltimore, circa 1962.
With Cold War paranoia and space-race tension gripping West and East alike, the atmosphere at the facility becomes even tenser when the amphibious creature (Doug Jones) captured in the Amazon is brought in for study.
For humane émigré scientist Michael Stuhlbarg he is an object of unusual interest; for cruel security agent Michael Shannon merely a beast to be tortured. Hawkins, however, immediately senses an affinity for the creature, feeds him eggs and teaches him sign language.
As her feelings blossom into love, she begins plotting to free him with help from her only friends, colleague Octavia Spencer and gay unemployed artist Richard Jenkins, both of them outsiders like her.
With The Shape of Water, del Toro has created a deeply affecting fable about tolerance that is all too resonant for today. All of his film’s elements prove beguiling – including Alexandre Desplat’s shimmering musical score and Paul Denham Austerberry’s aqueous production design, both of them also Oscar winners – but it is the guileless innocence and empathy that Oscar-nominated Hawkins brings to her role that holds everything together.