The Shape of Water

Viewed – 07 July 2018  Online rental

I’ve been really looking forward to this.  Having been a long time admirer of visionary director Guillermo Del Toro since his fantastically ingenious debut ‘Cronos‘, we come to this, the Oscar winning movie that finally after so many years, recognised Del Toro for the master that he is. Telling the story of Elise, a young mute woman working as a cleaner at a military base during Cold War era 60’s America … we discover that a new ‘asset’ has come to the base for further experimentation and investigation by a team of scientists headed by Michael Shannon’s unhinged Government Agent.  Said asset is a amphibious humanoid creature who Elise forms a unique bond with that gradually turns into love.

The Shape of Water

A gothic romance, a dark fantasy … hallmarks of what Del Toro does best and this takes some of the most interesting aspects of his earlier work and weaves them together into probably the best thing he’s done since Hellboy 2.  The performances are first rate, with a scenery chewing Michael Shannon, although no stretch for an actor used to playing intense characters, on brilliant form.  Also the often underrated Doug Jones who has appeared in several of the director’s works always underneath a wealth of prosthetics is mesmerising as the creature.  Yet it’s the breakout turn from relative unknown stage actress Sally Hawkins that impresses most, bringing incredible depth and emotion to a character who can not speak.

The romance at the centre of the story did feel a little rushed however, with Elise too easily attracted to a creature-from-the-black-lagoon looking monster, although her urge to help it was more understandable.  Also how the movie doesn’t exactly treat the creature as anything all that unusual considering it’s like nothing anyone had ever seen up until that point, is puzzling.  Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention Del Toro’s direction and eye for darkly beautiful imagery; macabre and at times weirdly erotic.  A true master of his art whose movies always look stunning – this is no exception as the set design, the slightly exaggerated 60’s Americana and the often cartoonish characters all create a tone and atmosphere uniquely his own and it’s a real joy.  Del Toro has put together a movie that is both heart-breaking and touching yet thrilling, funny and magical.  Although not quite up to the standard of Pan’s Labyrinth for me due to an undeveloped villain who’s motives are unclear and a little too much mystery to the creature … this was still a captivating watch from beginning to end.

Verdict:  4 /5

A Serious Man

Viewed – 21 March 2010  Blu-ray

The redux review

Larry Gopnik is a Jewish professor of physics whose life seems to be gradually falling apart at the seams.  His wife is having an affair that she is so blaze about that she and her lover convince Larry to move out of the house.  He is also being blackmailed by a student who didn’t agree with a grade he was given, and in the middle of all this he is trying to figure out how to put his life back on track by visiting various Rabbis.

Coming from film making siblings Joel & Ethan Coen, I jumped onto this as soon as it was released, and was expecting another masterpiece to rival the likes of O Brother Where Art Thou? and The Big LeBowski.  Now I might add I have watched this twice, and on first impressions, it wasn’t something I liked at all.  Even now I’m not sure if it’s something I’d hurry to recommend, but I can also see what the Coen’s were going for – a tale of one man’s ordinary life where bad things happen and he looks for an answer to it all, be it either consulting with friends or Rabbis.  Yet ultimately it’s about how one deals with such events and whether you let it ruin you, or you rise above it.

Michael Stuhlbarg is a revelation as the awkward, spineless Larry who allows people to talk to him like a five-year old, his wife and her lover belittle him, and all the time he tries to remain nice.  It’s funny, in an awkward, uncomfortable way, and with a wealth of oddball characters that scream ‘Coen’ this is very much the siblings doing what they do best – but ultimately, it’s also a movie that for some, may be an acquired taste.

Verdict: 3 /5