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

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The Help


Viewed – 18 January 2014  Netflix

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, this drama follows the story of Skeeter (Emma Stone) a young woman in a high society family who’s observations of the mistreatment of hired, African-American ‘help’ leads her to write a book detailing interviews by the various maids and giving a voice to their people.  Such an idea during a racially tense time in American history was controversial but as the movie progresses, Skeeter manages to persuade two maids to get involved.

THE HELP

Based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett and with a strong central performance by Stone, one of my favourites – this was a lengthy but absorbing tale.  The thought-provoking subject really drew me in, and Viola Davis as the narrating Aibileen and Octavia Spencer as Minnie are both excellent, as is a sneering, spiteful Bryce Dallas Howard. This is a movie about performances and getting one up on stuck up, narrow minded snobs – which made for quite a few feel good moments.

At times little details like one maid’s abuse by her husband is only hinted at and sometimes the dialogue and events were a touch vague, not helped by the thick southern dialects.  Yet the cinematography is very attractive with the setting filmed beautifully … wow those houses!  Acclaimed at time of release and having won several awards (most notably Octavia Spencer’s deserved Oscar) this was an enjoyable and educational experience that’s an easy recommendation.

Verdict:  4 /5