As usual, when arriving at the cinema last night my expectations were incredibly high. I’d agreed with a friend to go and see The Shape of Water, and had worn my aqua green top and vintage sea-weed-looking scarf (always love a theme.) When we arrived the screen was surprisingly packed- for some reason I thought it wouldn’t be a particularly popular film (Blank Panther being the obvious blockbuster triumph of the moment) but there we all were, huddled in to the surprisingly chilly leather chairs with our boxes of popcorn and hopes for the film piled equally high. Post cinema I often write and recite a review in my mind on the bouncy walk home- what it was like, what it lacked, what it made you feel, any gaping holes in the plot etc etc, yet this new Del Toro number did what I consistently strive to find in every film I watch- it managed to totally bewitch me. From the moment the credits begin in their surreal and eerily saturated light, you know you may be entering a world where perhaps things don’t entirely make sense- or if they do, perhaps they’re not entirely as they seem. You can tell from the trailer it will be a kind of surreal romance, an allegory of self understanding and communication, the sense of otherness artists and film makers are always wishing to explore and dissect. What you won’t realize is how unabashedly visceral and nude (in the artistic sense) the film is. Where perhaps you’d expect tasteful pans away when the lead female gets into her warm morning bath, instead Del Toro keeps his steady eye on her- never lurid, instead wanting you to take her form in as a creature herself, a naked soul in the water and totally unashamed. He makes quiet but deliberate social commentaries throughout on key issues in the 1960s; homosexuality, racism, sexual intimidation, the brutality of the Cold War, scientific ignorance and fear- without ever pulling us too far from the strange and mythological romance unfurling between our two enthralling leads. Without giving too much away, it seems that Guillermo Del Toro had a vision for a pure romance in this film. It’s a dark adult fairy tale. A message that though people are not themselves their idea of perfection, another can find in them a kindred spirit, a deep understanding, a sensual equal and find that they are ‘two of a kind’. This idea is of course a deeply beautiful one, and one in which he gleefully plays with visual imagery and the incredible use of colour and movement throughout the film. In particular, film makers have always enjoyed using water to create a sense of danger, drama, depression or sensuality on screen- but in this film Del Toro takes it to new depths (pun intended). It is the transparent ink with which he tells his story and bring the two lovers together. It is the sanctuary from danger in which the creature hides, and the quiet place in which Eliza (Sally Hawkins) can give herself pleasure in peace and privacy. As she finds herself falling easily in love with the creature, he shows us the intricate waltz of two drops on a bus window, twirling, joining and separating again- a dance I’ll wager most people watched as children (and adults) on their own long, dreary and cross-country journeys, making us feel he is giving our minds a pass into his world… a world I for one am more than happy to return to.

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