“The Princess without a voice.” From its opening sequence, Guillermo del Toro envisions a dream-like fairy-tale. The pride he takes in his world-building, and the creation of his characters and monsters, is a sheer wonder that continues to amaze me. The Shape of Water is no different.
Our endearing protagonist, Elisa, is played with a beautiful vulnerability and earnestness by Sally Hawkins. She does not utter a word but, through nothing but her face and bright doe eyes, she conveys so much. You already know her every thought, even in spite of her selective sign language – an impressive aspect of the writing. Not everything requires a verbal response, and del Toro acknowledges this with his simplicity.
If ever a person believes words are the primary source of storytelling in film, they have not seen enough of Doug Jones. ‘The Asset’ does not speak also, a touching similarity with Elisa who, in acknowledging this, exclaims: “When he looks at me, he does not see what I lack, he does not know that I am incomplete.” Instead, Jones uses his physicality, understanding and control of his body to bring a grace and physical poetry to the screen. Combining his talent with that of the make-up and production team creates a spellbinding creature you cannot look away from.
I am, however, not without my minor criticisms. Michael Shannon’s villain figure, Strickland, wasn’t quite as formidable or even as intimidating as I’d hoped. The stakes are high for the pair in love, but his presence does not feel like a major contributor. I’m not quite certain what is lacking here, whether it be script or performance, but that isn’t to say he was not at all interesting. It appears he is very much a product of his time-the 1960s. He is very much on a career-high and the breadwinner at home, yet he sees no space for failure. A man should ‘deliver’ is a sentiment he persists with.
Del Toro simply has a beautifully open-hearted scope for humanity, in his films you see the ultimate strength lies in benevolence. In this instance, I feel, we are seeing him at his most confident. This is a man who bares his soul in the worlds he creates, and with scrutinising detail he invites us to be transported to meet people and places we’ve never seen but still somehow feel familiar.
His newest feature comes to promote the notion that love can assume any form. Love is not between man and woman, it is an idea, a hope shared between two beings. Guillermo del Toro portrays this with care and charm. In The Shape of Water, we see that the shape of love is anything we can imagine.
by Millicent Thomas
Millicent Thomas is a 20 year old actress from Manchester. Her favourite films include Whiplash, Her, Logan and Short Term 12. She likes anything superhero-related and has a soft spot for trashy horror. You can follow her on Instagram at @millicentathomas and twitter at @_MillicentAnn