It’s an Xmas update! And General Tanaka’s got it all figured out.
I saw The Shape of Water, Guillermo Del Toro’s latest cinematic undertaking. It’s hard not to view the movie as a highly niche film that probably won’t appeal to a general movie going audience, as it’s an R rated film that revolves around the romance between a mute woman and a sea monster man. That R rating is for the full gamut of language, sex, and violence, albeit used smartly to heighten tension and flesh out the cast. But as someone who enjoys a movie with great characterization, this one hits the sweet spot, with a relatively small cast bursting with unique personalities. I’ve grown further enamored with small scale storytelling in genre films, maybe because of my own exhaustion over the brutal onslaught of overstuffed plots and expansive casts in Hollywood blockbusters. In that sense, Shape of Water feels like a relief. I also strongly appreciate a lot of the foreshadowing in the script that results in some great setups and payoffs.
It’s not a perfect film, though, mostly in terms of its pacing. There’s a heist sequence about two thirds of the way through the story. Right after that, when you think things are about to kick into high gear, the movie actually slows down quite a bit to expand on the unorthodox romance plot. Although the romance is a major focus, the result is the deflation of much of the film’s building tension. Although that tension eventually does come back in heavy doses as the movie closes in on its emotional climax.
Overall, this is probably one of Del Toro’s most solid films to date. Not as bogged down in tired cliches as his Hellboy films, nor as muddled in deus ex machina plot mechanics and half finished characters arcs as Pacific Rim. Infinitely better paced than the beautifully shot Crimson Peak. Perhaps not quite as masterfully envisioned as Pan’s Labyrinth, but probably more of a narrative crowd pleaser in the end. Good luck finding it in theaters, though. The Shape of Water’s release has been very limited.
Published on by Alex Kolesar