Fish meets girl in cold war

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CREATURE: Sally Hawkins, as Elisa, discovers a secret experiment in a high-security Government laboratory.

The Shape of Water

  •  Fantasy-drama; Cert R16, contains violence, horror, sex scenes and offensive language; 2hrs 3mins
  •  Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg
  •  Director: Guillermo del Toro

SOMEWHERE, perhaps in a parallel universe, a woman falls in love with a fish God.

As unlikely as it might sound, that is the premise of what could be considered director Guillermo del Toro’s (Pacific Rim) most passionate work to date.

Set in a place and time reminiscent of the United States in the 1960s, The Shape of Water is a fairy tale of forbidden love, cruelty, and the strength of the human spirit. Del Toro said in a recent interview the film, in the classic Mexican style, was “the marriage of the ordinary with the extraordinary”.

As a result, it travels in much the same vein as 1992’s groundbreaking Mexican film, El Mariachi, by Robert Rodriguez – where absurdity is presented with such conviction and sincerity it becomes plausible.

Elisa, a mute 30-something with a heart of gold played by Sally Hawkins (Maudie), is lonely and sexually frustrated.

The fact she has a long commute in the middle of the night to a secret government laboratory where she punches the clock as a night janitor, is all the more depressing for this woman who yearns for just a little romance and meaningful human contact.

Who would expect that what may well be her first sexual experience would be with a mammalian lizard discovered in the Amazon jungle – played by Doug Jones (Star Trek: Discovery). Referred to as ‘the asset’, he is held for scientific experimentation by a sadistic black ops agent played by Michael Shannon (Midnight Special).

As the janitor responsible for cleaning the asset’s cell/water tank, Elisa tries to ease the amphibian man’s suffering through hard-boiled eggs and music. As neither of the characters have a voice, they bond through their attempts to communicate.

Ultimately, with its cold war-era setting, The Shape of Water is an allegory for the present – a cautionary tale of the perils associated with the mindset of exceptionalism.

9/10

mark.rieder@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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