If there was a better movie to pick for Valentine's Day, I'm not sure what it would've been. The Shape Of Water is a love story like none ever seen before. It involves the fantasy driven creative genius of Guillermo Del Toro, probably best known up until now for Pan's Labyrinth.
This is the story of a mute lady, portrayed brilliantly by Sally Hawkins, who works as a cleaning lady in a top secret lab during the 1960's. She's mopping up piss with her friend (Octavia Spencer) one day when a sea creature, captured in the Amazon, is hauled into the lab. She uses her sign language to begin to communicate and eventually falls in love with the creature.
The workers and the creature share a nemesis in a government spook (Michael Shannon) who delights in torturing any being he deems inferior to himself. That pretty much includes every non-white human and all creatures on the planet.
Spencer and Shannon deliver the goods in their roles but this movie hinges on the directorial genus of Del Toro and the awesome ability of Hawkins. Her whole role revolves on facial expressions and sign language. Audiences members where I was at were captivated by her performance.
In particular, I loved the scene where we slowly - with the beat of a song - transition into her inner thoughts, where she's doing a musical number with the creature. You aren't expecting this, and it could've easily backfired, but it was the perfect way for the audience to connect with her emotions. I loved that scene.
I want to mention one other performance. Richard Jenkins plays Hawkin's friend, Giles, a lonely man who lost his dream job due to drinking and the fact he is not as far in the closet as he thinks. There is such humanity in his performance that you immediately experience empathy for him. In fact, humanity, or what it should be, is the theme of this movie. What is love and how should we cherish it? A question asked time and time again in this film.
This movie has 13 Oscar nods and will certainly be taking home statues. Del Toro probably will walk off with the director's category and I hope that at least Hawkins does the same. This movie has like a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes so don't be surprised by my 5/5 rating here. See it and rediscover love.